Melissa Mark-Viverito Is Quiet on City Council’s Budget Losses

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito share a moment after announcing a budget deal. (Photo: William Alatriste for the New York City Council)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito share a moment after announcing a budget deal. (Photo: William Alatriste for the New York City Council) William Alatriste/NYC Council

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she would have liked to “fund everything” in the city’s $75 billion budget, but when asked in a radio interview for the biggest budget challenge, she didn’t list any of the initiatives the City Council failed to get into the final deal.

WNYC host Brian Lehrer pointed out that the speaker and Mayor Bill de Blasio share many priorities – but said he wanted to know the “hardest choice that you had to make together, between what and what, since money doesn’t grow on city streets.”

“Everything is a challenge,” the speaker said. “You want to be able, like you said, to fund everything.”

But she quickly pivoted away from what was not funded to how “lucky” the city had been this year. “We had very conservative revenue projections that we’ve exceeded,” she said.

That increased revenue allowed the council and the mayor not to have to “engage in the budget dance which we have historically engaged in with the previous administration of cutting vital services like our firehouses,” and paved the way for “really productive conversations” about where to focus the city’s resources.

But there was something of a budget dance, even if it had a different tune than the last decade. The council proposed several initiatives the mayor’s office would not include in the budget —  perhaps the biggest a call to add 1,000 new cops to the NYPD at a price of nearly $200 million over two fiscal years. Ms. Mark-Viverito did not mention that, or the compromise deal of moving 300 cops off desk duty and to the street, as a hard choice.

“We were in a good place, that we were able to engage in positive conversations with this mayor and get a lot done,” she said. “We’re not saying it’s going to be like that endlessly, but clearly we want to continue to engage productively with the administration, not engage in these fights over vital services and re-funding them, but really look at policy changes we can enact.”

Mr. Lehrer pressed her on another spot where the council didn’t win – expanding to six-day library service.

But Ms. Mark-Viverito said the council had successfully baselined the funding of the city’s library systems, as well as adding in some additional money – though not enough to restore the six-day service that’s been gone since 2008, which is “ideally where we would want to end up,” she said.

“But we did see an increase, and that’s very important to delineate,” she said.

Ms. Mark-Viverito was on something of a victory lap, touting her first council budget and the passage of a law creating municipal identification cards for which undocumented immigrants would be eligible.

Amid comments from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that meaningful immigration reform can come only at the federal level, Ms. Mark-Viverito said she had not talked to the governor about the municipal ID law – noting it’s something the city can do on its own.

Mr. Lehrer asked the liberal speaker if she might not be more aligned with Mr. Cuomo’s left-wing challenger, Zephyr Teachout. But Ms. Mark-Viverito pointed out she’s already endorsed the governor.

“I believe in being able to work, as we have been doing with the mayor, on issues that impact New York City,” she said when asked why she gave him her endorsement.

She went on to cite his work on gun safety, marriage equality, subsidies for homeless families and his help on a “very aggressive” legislative and budget agenda.

“I believe that he is aligned with those issues that we consider important, and want to move forward with as a city,” she said.