Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and East Side Councilman Dan Garodnick are vying to be the next City Council Speaker. Credit: William Alatriste for New York City Council
There are no voting booths in the City Council Chambers.
Yet, noon Wednesday, 51 members will determine the next City Council Speaker, a position many believe to be the second most powerful in City Hall.
Since November, a handful of council members vied for support from their colleagues until two frontrunners emerged: Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and East Side Councilman Dan Garodnick.
Mark-Viverito declared victory in December shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio privately called council members noting his preference for her.
Councilwoman Mark-Viverito endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio early on in his campaign and he supported her during the speaker's race. Credit: William Alatriste for New York City Council
Co-chair of the council's Progressive Caucus, Mark-Viverito said she is hoping to make the council more democratic. Namely, she said she supports the creation of an independent legislative drafting unit to make sure the process is equal and transparent, as well as reforms to how discretionary spending is dolled out by the speaker.
Both she and Garodnick pledged to support such rules reform in October.
"There's been discussion about reforms that many of us would like to see happen, making the council more open," she said in a brief interview Tuesday. "That's something that I would push for."
While the majority of members -- 31, including herself -- publicly declared support for Mark-Viverito, Garodnick remains defiant.
"It's not a prescription for City Council independence where the mayor is involved in picking the leadership and that is a concern to many of us," he said.
Councilman Garodnick said Mayor de Blasio's support of a speaker could threaten the City Council's independence. Credit: William Alatriste for New York City Council
During the mayoral campaign, de Blasio frequently criticized former Speaker Christine Quinn for her close working relationship with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
He said Tuesday that that would not be the case should Mark-Viverito win.
"The council members are going to make the decision," he said. "And then I know they will be independent and she will be independent."
De Blasio added that he had similar values to Mark-Viverito, who has a history of speaking out on issues of inequality.
Responding to criticisms of her relationship with the mayor, the councilwoman said she has a proven "trajectory" of independence.
Garodnick remains hopeful he will win. In the last days leading up to the vote, he has tried making his case.
As speaker, the councilman said he would make the city's economy a focus, as well as the environment.
Garodnick would also "create a more open dynamic where we have more willingness to debate and dissent on issues" than under Quinn, empowering individual council members.
"I would want to put myself in the background," he said.