A leading contender to be the New York City Council’s next speaker met Thursday morning with a prominent Flatbush Jewish group, promising them that she will not forget their friendship on her path to the city’s second most powerful post.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rico-born councilwoman from the Bronx who announced last week that a majority of her colleagues support her to be speaker, told the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition that she hopes to have a working relationship with the Jewish community if elected speaker.
“In conversations that began several weeks ago with Councilman-elect Chaim Deutsch and the leadership of the FJCC, I have learned an enormous amount about the Orthodox Jewish community,” Mark-Viverito told the group, which was made up of some two dozen organizations including Agudath Israel, Ohel, Hatzolah, Bikur Cholim, Shomrim and COJO of Flatbush.
She told the meeting, which was coordinated with Deutsch and Councilman Brad Lander and held at the Waterford by the Bay in Sheepshead Bay, that as speaker, she will “continue to seek the guidance and advice” of the community.
Saying that “More than coming to talk, I really came to listen,” Mark-Viverito first had a private discussion with FJCC leaders and elected officials, including FJCC chairman Josh Mehlman and Conference of Presidents executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein.
Issues discussed included education, special-needs children, affordable housing, security, social programs and aid for yeshivos.
While Mark-Viverito last week released a list of 30 councilmen — more than half of the 51-member chamber — who pledged their support, Councilman Dan Garodnick said he has not abandoned his bid.
Garodnick, a Manhattan Democrat who has the support of the county Democratic chairs of Queens and the Bronx, is seen as more moderate compared to Mark-Viverito, who is to the left of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on several issues. Reports in the media say that several lawmakers may still change their minds ahead of the vote on Jan. 8.
The council speaker is the one who decides who chairs the various committees in the lawmaking body, which bills are scheduled for a vote, and is also the point person to negotiate with the mayor on the budget and major bills.
In advance of the speaker’s poll, Mark-Viverito has been meeting with constituencies across the city.
Deutsch, the founder of the Flatbush Shomrim who was elected with the support of leaders at the FJCC, was acknowledged by Mark-Viverito as an early backer of her speaker bid. She said that she would always remember that.
“I appreciate and will never forget that Chaim Deutsch and the FJCC were there for me as I began my journey for Speaker of the City Council,” she said in a statement. “I value this relationship.”