Outgoing New York City Council Speaker on Her Work to Close Rikers, Expand Living Wage, Protect Immigrants

We look at one of the most progressive city councils in New York City’s history and the woman who helped lead the agenda: Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who occupies the second most powerful post in city government. Mark-Viverito was first elected to New York City Council in 2005 and was named speaker in 2014. During her time as speaker, the council expanded living wage requirements, expanded paid sick leave, established a city bail fund and a municipal identification card for undocumented immigrants, limited cooperation between immigration authorities and the city’s police and jails, also funded free legal advice for immigrants in detention who face deportation. During her tenure, she also got Mayor Bill de Blasio to agree to close the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail. We speak with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose term winds down at the end of this year due to term limits.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to what some have called one of the most progressive city councils in New York City’s history and the woman who helped lead the agenda, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the second most powerful post in city government. Her term winds down at the end of this year due to term limits. She gave her farewell address last week.

SPEAKER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Twelve years ago, when I was first sworn in, as the first Latina, the first puertorriqueña, to represent my district of El Barrio, East Harlem, and the Bronx, I tried to process what that all meant. I was a labor organizer, a community activist, a mujer del barrio, not a politician. But I knew, as a councilmember, I had a real chance to be a voice for all those in our city, for — who for too long have been cast aside and silenced — the poor, the undocumented, nuestros viejitos and every single New Yorker who felt that there was more to be done to make our great city more responsive, fair and just for our…

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