Mark-Viverito Seeks to Balance Power of ‘White Men’ in New York

Public advocate candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito at an editorial meeting at El Diario in Brooklyn.(Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

(…) One only needs to visit La Marqueta, El Barrio’s popular market, to hear stories about the days when former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito came by from her office nearby to say hello:  Aurelia Vélez, a 77-year-old “Newyorican,” said Mark-Viverito was “like family.”

“We would always see her back when she had her office right up the street, and we used to chat. She is a very approachable person, and that is what makes us feel like she is part of our family,” said the merchant, who has been selling Latino food products for 45 years.

(…) Today, Mark-Viverito’s closeness to the community and the fact that she is Hispanic have turned her into a strong contender to the office of New York’s public advocate, which she said “needs the presence of a woman, and it is about time it was a Hispanic.”

(…) The 49-year-old candidate, who is seeking to occupy the seat left vacant by current New York Attorney General Letitia James, pointed out that her campaign aims to create an independent voice in the city.

“What we are seeing is that it is necessary to provide a voice that is independent, even if that means contradicting the mayor,” said Mark-Viverito, who critiqued the fact that “three white men” are in charge of New York’s politics.

“At the moment, there are no women in leadership positions in the city and no Latino representation. It is crucial for us to include these voices because, in a city like New York in 2019, it is not right for all power positions to be only in the hands of white men,” she said.

(…) For her, the best way to connect with voters is to seek them on the streets, and her strategy has led her to concentrate on her closest communities.

“Above all else, I am an activist, and I understand how messages need to be shared with our people,” said the Puerto Rican-born politician. “I have visited every borough. I am always talking to people on the subway. I am in the living rooms of NYCHA apartments.”

(…) Mark-Viverito said that she will always remember the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House as “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” and her main drive to run for a position from which she said she will seek to defend the citizens of the country’s most progressive city.

“We are at a moment when every community is being attacked, and that, to me, is my commitment: to develop coalitions. I have been very effective in doing that to achieve progress. We must build those alliances,” she said.

Mark-Viverito did not discard any political moves for the future, but said that her main focus is to win the special election on Feb. 26 (…).

“I have always said that representation matters, and here we are, ready,” said the political leader. She also asked the community to vote in this election, in which “only about 200,000 people are expected to cast a ballot because we are not used to voting in winter.”

Over the weekend, the candidate added Rep. Adriano Espaillat to her supporters.

“New York City deserves a fearless leader who is unafraid to stand up to power and deliver for working families, and Melissa is the public advocate we need. As the first formerly undocumented immigrant to serve in United States’ Congress, I’m inspired by Melissa’s commitment to fight for all New Yorkers, no matter their immigration status,” said Espaillat in a press release.

He added that, as council speaker Mark-Viverito, funded lawyers for undocumented immigrants, removed ICE from Rikers Island and launched a municipal identification card program for all New Yorkers.

For her part, the candidate said: “It is an honor to have the support of Congressman Espaillat, a true leader of the Latino community who is fighting for all immigrants. (…)” [Editor’s note: On Jan. 30, the New York State Immigrant Action Fund endorsed Mark-Viverito.]

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