Both the Queens and Bronx Democratic party leadership supported Councilman Dan Garodnick for the job, but Garodnick conceded just before Wednesday's vote after it became clear that none of Mark-Viverito's 31 supporters could be swayed to change their vote.
Mark-Viverito needed 26 votes, or a simple majority, to win the post.
It's seen as a big blow for Congressman Joseph Crowley, who also chairs the Queens County Democratic Party. With 14 City Council seats, nearly all of them Democrats, voting as a borough block in the past helped insure that party support played a big role in selecting the next speaker.
In exchange for county support, Queens council members not only secured choice committee chairmanships, but the party also wielded a significant amount of influence with the Speaker's officer, which is seen as the second most powerful position in the city.
“It’s a bit too early to tell how the battle will settle,” one Queens council member said late Wednesday, “but it became obvious that four or five Queens people were not going to go with us, and we didn’t have the votes for Dan.”
Conversely, the vote is viewed as a major victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who worked vigorously behind the scenes to get Mark-Viverito elected, meaning he will have a key ally in the City Council to push his agenda.
Queens Democratic council members Daniel Dromm, Jimmy Van Bramer, Julissa Ferreras and Donovan Richards all broke ranks with the party and supported Mark-Viverito.
In a press release sent out by Mark-Viverito last month announcing her confirmed supporters, new Queens councilman Daneek Miller was also on that list.
Queens lone Republican council member, Eric Ulrich, also supported Mark-Viverito, a stark about-face for Ulrich, who said he would never support her as speaker after reports surfaced months ago that she refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before stated council meetings.
“She doesn’t believe in the ‘liberty and justice for all’ part of the Pledge,” said one political insider after the vote.
Ulrich said in a statement after the vote that he did what he thought was best for his constituents.
“While we may not agree on every issue, I know that I can count on Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to work with me on important issues facing my district,” said Ulrich. “Like every decision I make, I do so based upon what I think is right for the people I represent, and this is no exception."
More controversy surrounded Mark-Viverito, after it was discovered recently that she didn't disclose income from a Manhattan rental property. A spokesperson for the new speaker said she “made a mistake.”
Both the Garodnick and Mark-Vivierito camps huddled separately for breakfast before the vote. Garodnick supporters decided in the end they would gain nothing by holding out and voting for Garodnick in what was sure to be a losing cause.
“Three weeks ago, I decided to remain a candidate notwithstanding long odds, because I felt it was important that every council member be given a full opportunity to consider who they wanted to lead the body,” Garodnick said in a statement after conceding.
In her acceptance speech, which began in Spanish, Mark-Viverito acknowledged her adversary Crowley, who was sitting in the balcony of the City Council chambers watching the vote. He stood and took a bow.
Mark-Viverito's win will likely cost Queens council members who sided with county leadership key committee chairmanships. In fact, Mark-Viverito's first act as speaker was to announce members of the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, which will choose committee assignments.
The committee will be chaired by longtime supporter and Mark-Viverito's co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander.
Likewise, the committee consists solely of Mark-Viverito's early supporters, upsetting some from the Garodnick camp.
Lander said the committee would work to set up an independent legislative body.
“It is our duty to set up the infrastructure of an independent City Council and ensure that our body is inclusive so that people from all boroughs and diverse backgrounds have a voice in our work,” he said.
In the future, Lander said the committee would also work to enact reforms to make the City Council more transparent, working off ideas already put forth by the Progressive Caucus.
“We developed a proposal that has already been endorsed by a strong and diverse majority of our members,” he said. “With input from good-government experts and New Yorkers, we will make this stronger City Council a reality."