Melissa Mark-Viverito is the first Latina City Council Speaker. Credit: William Alatriste
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito was elected the next City Council Speaker in a unanimous vote Wednesday.
Mark-Viverito, who represents parts of Harlem and the Bronx, is the first Latina to hold citywide public office.
"We unite for a more equal and just New York where everyone, no matter what borough you are from, what neighborhood you were raised in or who your parents were, has equal opportunities," she said of the council after the vote.
The new speaker is known as an advocate against inequality and endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio early in his campaign.
After de Blasio called several members explaining his preference for her in December, Mark-Viverito announced she had support from 30 members, a clear majority.
Still, East Side Councilman Dan Garodnick remained in the running, but failed to sway enough members.
Garodnick hugged Mark-Viverito and said "congratulations" on the Council Chambers floor ahead of the vote.
After she was formally nominated, Garodnick said he would work to repair any "rifts" that arose between members because of the race.
"In the spirit of strengthening the council that animated my candidacy from the start, I want to formally concede to the next speaker of the City Council," he said, followed by a long standing ovation.
As he and 49 other members said her name during the roll-call vote, with breaks for hugs, applause and heaps of praise, Mark-Viverito wiped away some tears but held a constant smile.
Though members hailed the vote as a demonstration of unity, Mark-Viverito faced some push back after making appointments to the rules committee (formally known as the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections) immediately following the vote.
Garodnick said her list didn't include "a broader coalition of members of the council" before voting in favor of the nominations. Mark-Viverito later said she would address such concerns.
The new speaker is also facing pressure for her relationship with de Blasio.
Before his concession, Garodnick suggested that the mayor's support for Mark-Viverito in the race could threaten the City Council's independence. The new speaker disagreed.
"If [members] differ with the mayor on a particular matter, then we do that in a respectful way and obviously safeguarding the independence and the integrity of this institution," she said in a press conference following the vote.
At least one dispute is in the future. De Blasio is against member items -- some $50 million in discretionary funds dolled out to districts by the council speaker — while Mark-Viverito supports them.