The Rev. Al Sharpton drew a large contingent of elected officials to his annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at National Action Network’s House of Justice. Headliners included U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke and Carolyn Maloney. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Council Speaker and Acting Public Advocate Corey Johnson, NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYS Senate Temporary President and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also spoke.
Several of the public advocate candidates participated, including Assembly Members Latrice Walker, Michael Blake and Danny O’Donnell, Council Members Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, former Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Dawn Smalls. Walker, Blake, O’Donnell and Smalls were given speaking slots. Former mayor David Dinkins and former congressman Charles Rangel appeared, sitting onstage in the front row for the full program.
Council Member Corey Johnson became Council Speaker Corey Johnson, drawing nearly unanimous support after besting rivals in the informal process preceding the vote. Receiving the support of Congressman and Queens County Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley appeared to seal the speakership for Johnson ahead of the vote and that expectation came to fruition Wednesday with Johnson receiving 48 of the 49 votes cast.
In remarks on the floor during the Council Charter session Council Member Inez Barron offered herself as an alternative speaker candidate, harshly criticizing the absence of any black speaker among the four people who’ve held the position and the continuation of that reality with the selection of Johnson. While drawing supportive remarks from several of her colleagues Barron did not draw any of their votes. He spoke movingly of his mother and their close relationship, embracing her just after his election.
Johnson was warmly praised by many of his colleagues who noted both his professional accomplishments and his personal journey. First coming to public attention as a high school football player who revealed himself as gay, and now H.I.V. positive, Johnson has also openly shared his past substance abuse struggles.
On Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio worked to turn attention away from his troubled relationship with the NYPD and toward one of his successful initiatives, highlighting significant improvements to an historically dangerous intersection with a visit to the redesigned and rebuilt intersection of East Tremont Avenue and Silver Street in the Bronx neighborhood of Westchester Square. The redesign and rebuild is part of his administration’s Vision Zero initiative.
Joined by DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Public Advocate Tish James, Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda, Council Member Jimmy Vacca and NYPD Assistant Chief for Transportation Thomas Chan de Blasio then held a lengthy press conference nearby.
On Topic Q&A:
The on topic Q&A included redesign plans for other streets, especially Queens Boulevard, why the administration attributes the reduction in pedestrian fatalities to Vision Zero and not to regular year-to-year variances, how the administration actually knows that driving speeds are reduced, why so few street redesign projects have been done on Staten Island, data for any changes in safety at this E.Tremont/Silver Street intersection, why Commissioner Bratton did not attend, why there are few speeding and failure to yield tickets issued in this (45th) precinct, the negative effect of speed bumps on emergency response vehicles, plans for marking and painting of roads, whether the mayor will seek additional red light camera authorizations from the state legislature, the paucity of criminal prosecutions against drivers who kill pedestrians and an estimate of money received from speed camera tickets.
Off Topic Q&A:
The off topic portion of the press conference substantially focused on de Blasio’s continuing friction with the NYPD and the PBA. Question topics included the recent rollout of the City’s municipal ID program, an internal PBA meeting reported to have degenerated into yelling and shoving over PBA President Pat Lynch’s demands for an apology from the mayor and whether that provided “consolation” to the mayor, whether he takes comfort from the low number of PBA members reported to have signed “stay away from my funeral” statements, Bratton’s comment that the “well was poisoned” by de Blasio’s bring of former Sharpton aide Rachel Noerdlinger, a potential Teamsters strike at Hunts Point market, Governor Cuomo’s consideration of legislation allowing public access to grand jury minutes, the mayor’s objections to a City Council proposed bill outlawing police use of chokeholds, a reported Cuomo/Lynch meeting and what role the governor should fill in the Lynch/de Blasio dispute, whether the mayor is willing to acknowledge “missteps”, the reports of Legionnaire’s Disease in Co-op City, de Blasio’s reaction to a possible 2016 Mitt Romney candidacy and when he last spoke with the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Following the city council’s stated meeting this afternoon, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito answered questions from the press. Among the topics: whether there was political retribution against some council members who did not support her speaker bid, rules reform and the “lulu” system of additional payments to council members and her view of Governor Cuomo’s recent pre-K proposal.
Update – Cuomo Pre-K Proposal:
I asked Speaker Mark-Viverito whether Governor Cuomo’s recent proposal for a state-wide pre-K program, seemingly intended to supplant Mayor de Blasio’s proposed program and especially it’s income tax surcharge, would be unacceptable. Here’s how she responded.
We spoke this afternoon with Council Member/speaker contender Melissa Mark-Viverito concerning media coverage of her candidacy. A significant amount of media attention on Mark-Viverito has been less than flattering and some, such as yesterday’s New York Post story on a woman who claims that Mark-Viverito placed a hex on her, has been odd. We spoke at the ceremonial swearing in of Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
Update – Public Forums:
We spoke with Council Member Carlos Menchaca about the role of the seven public speaker candidate forums. Menchaca was one of the four newly-elected council members who conceived and organized the forums.
Update #2 – Predictions & Solidarity:
We spoke with Council Members Carlos Menchaca, Ydanis Rodriguez and Brad Lander, as well as Melissa Mark-Viverito, about the state of the council speaker race with three days to go.
Solidarity, In Song:
Finally, a brief excerpt from the performance of the New York City Labor Chorus at the inauguration ceremony of Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
This afternoon we spoke with Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito about the speaker’s race. Mark-Viverito is the leading contender, and presumptive speaker, with the public support of 30 of her 50 colleagues. Despite that public display of more than sufficient support, Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, who supports Dan Garodnick for Speaker, recently declared that the race “has a ways to go” and said that Mark-Viverito’s public display of support “reminds me a little bit of George Bush on the aircraft carrier.”
I began by asking Mark-Viverito whether she believes the race has concluded or whether Crowley or others are still actively seeking votes for any other candidates. We spoke at the swearing-in ceremony of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, held in his Washington Heights district office.
On Wednesday evening Melissa Mark-Viverito released a statement listing 30 council members supporting her bid to be city council speaker. Only one Republican appears in the group of 30, Eric Ulrich of Queens.
Ulrich’s declaration of support is notable for two reasons. First, in November he reacted harshly to the prospect of Mark-Viverito becoming speaker. Ulrich was reacting to news reports of Mark-Viverito’s “reluctance to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance.” His criticism was broader, however, saying “I don’t believe that she can be an effective counterweight to the mayor” and characterizing a Mark-Viverito speakership as a “disaster.” Second, in November Ulrich also said that he expected to vote as a bloc, albeit a small one, with the two other Republicans in the new council. He now appears to be the only Republican supporting Mark-Viverito, however.
Here’s full video of Ulrich’s discussion with reporters this evening, following the final city council meeting of the current session.
We also spoke with Steve Matteo, Council Member-elect from Staten Island, who said that he was “disappointed” by Ulrich’s decision to split from his fellow Republicans and support Mark-Viverito. Matteo also suggested that Mark-Viverito’s selection is far from settled, characterizing the selection process as “in the third quarter of a football game.”
(In November, we spoke with Matteo and Council Member Vincent Ignizio, also from Staten Island and the third Republican in the new council, about the speaker’s race. Those interviews are here.)
Congressman and Queens County Democratic chair Joe Crowley answered reporters questions concerning the selection of the next speaker of the city council. Crowley has reportedly worked in support of Dan Garodnick for speaker.
Crowley spoke following a press conference focused on drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants at City Hall on December 19, 2013.
We spoke with Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez about the selection of the next council speaker. Rodriguez is a member of the progressive bloc and a strong supporter of Melissa Mark-Viverito. We spoke outside the National Action Network’s House of Justice, following a visit by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his police commissioner designee, Bill Bratton.
Be sure to watch our coverage of all seven speaker forums, held on Staten Island, in Manhattan at the Talking Transition Tent, Baruch College and New York Law School, as well as in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Jackson Heights. Our coverage includes conversations with many council members/member-elects about the selection process, including, in addition to Ydanis Rodriguez, Vincent Ignizio, Steve Matteo, Debi Rose, Corey Johnson, Karen Koslowitz, Andrew Cohen, Brad Lander, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torrres and Helen Rosenthal.
At a City Hall press conference this afternoon, Capital New York reporter Sally Goldenberg asked outgoing Council Speaker Christine Quinn for her thoughts on the prospect of the council selecting a speaker who does not support marriage equality. Here is Speaker Quinn’s response.
Update – Williams:
Earlier, we asked Council Member and speaker contender Jumaane Williams about the weight that his fellow council members should give to his positions on marriage equality and abortion rights in selecting the next speaker. Williams is alone among the announced speaker contenders in opposing both.
Council Member, and speaker contender, Mark Weprin has a long family history in politics and government. His late father, Saul Weprin, was speaker of the New York State Assembly. Mark Weprin was elected to fill his father’s assembly seat, serving for 15 years before being elected to the City Council. Mark’s brother David currently serves in the Assembly, having previously been a member of the City Council.
Following a speaker candidate forum at New York Law School, I asked Mark Weprin how his father’s experience as speaker of the Assembly informs or influences how Mark thinks about the similar position of City Council speaker. With his brother standing by his side, Mark Weprin shared some thoughts.
Insight, analysis and reporting on New York and national politics