Melissa Mark-Viverito was sworn into office for the second time in the span of about a month last night. But this time, the audience was much larger.
Ms. Mark-Viverito, now the powerful speaker of the City Council, was officially coronated in the Bronx, where she was heralded by Mayor Bill de Blasio and various liberal allies. While sticking to many of the same left-leaning talking points that she has repeated elsewhere, the new speaker struck a more defiant tone at times, asserting that there were unnamed people who wanted her and the progressive movement to fail.
“Let’s be clear also and make no mistake about it: There are some who are rooting for us to fail,” Ms. Mark-Viverito declared in the auditorium of Hostos Community College. “There are some who believe that our ideas are too big, too lofty or too impatient. Some who think that by trying to raise people up, we’re trying to bring others down.”
“To those who have expressed or privately hold those point of view, I stress this,” she continued, “New York is at its best when we all work together.”
One month ago, Ms. Mark-Viverito was sworn in for her third term as councilwoman under very different circumstances. Instead of a college auditorium, about 100 Mark-Viverito backers jammed into a Bronx public housing building recreation room, where the future speaker gave a quick speech and then glad-handed her supporters. At the time, she was locked in a bitter leadership race against Councilman Dan Garodnick that wouldn’t be resolved for another week.
But last night, many of Mr. Garodnick’s former backers joined Ms. Mark-Viverito on stage, grinning from chairs set up on a stage behind her.
Serenaded by Puerto Rican bomba drums and “si se puede!” chants, the inauguration was also as much about the ascension of Latino lawmakers in the city as it was the rise of the progressive movement. Hispanic Congress members José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez hailed Ms. Mark-Viverito’s rise, as did ex-Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, who in 2005 was the first Latino nominee for mayor by a major party. He also pointed to some of the negative press coverage the speaker received during the campaign.
“If you shot down from another planet and read the newspapers or saw the television, you would think, ‘Oh my goodness, somebody named Che is gonna be speaker. They’re gonna put hexes on all of us. They’re gonna conspire to turn this place into something that we shouldn’t be,’” Mr. Ferrer said, referring to a bizarre “hex” story in the tabloids about Ms. Mark-Viverito. “Well, what did they do? This speaker and this mayor conspired to lift the lives of families and their children by giving a little more to the people working hard and bringing home less.”
Appearing on schedule at the end of the program, Mr. de Blasio spoke and underscored many of the liberal themes that dominated the night, including easing the city’s the income inequality.
“In our household, there’s a fight, there’s a big fight over who’s the biggest fan of Melissa Mark-Viverito,” said Mr. de Blasio, standing next to his wife, Chirlane McCray. “I hope I win but sometimes the first lady wins.”
“Today we celebrate the election of the most progressive speaker in the City Council in the history of New York City,” he later declared.