Pro-Business Group Tried to Push Ferreras Into Speaker’s Race: Source

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. (Photo: NYC Council)
Julissa Ferreras. (Photo: NYC Council)

One of the city’s leading big business organizations is said to have attempted to recruit Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras to run for City Council speaker, though the group denies any lobbying effort took place.

According to a source familiar with the discussion, the pro-business group Partnership for New York met with three representatives from Ms. Ferreras’s office–a special assistant, a communications director and a scheduler–on September 20.

While hashing out general business priorities for the district, the source said Partnership representatives also inquired about the status of the speaker’s race, floating the idea of Ms. Ferreras jumping into the backroom contest that will be decided by the council’s 51 members.

“Representatives from the Partnership for New York like Julissa and openly suggested that she, as a more pro-business councilwoman, enter the speaker’s race,” the source said. “She was flattered by the suggestion.”

The Partnership, led by Kathryn Wylde, confirmed a meeting had taken place on that date, but insisted that no recruitment effort occurred and that the only topics broached pertained to the district’s business climate. 

“I’ve never, ever discussed this, nor have any surrogates discussed this,” Ms. Wylde told Politicker. “I think Julissa is terrific but I don’t have anything to say about who is Council speaker. I get along with all the candidates for speaker and I’m not putting an oar in that water.”

Ms. Ferreras declined to comment through a spokesperson, as did the three staffers who attended on her behalf.

Ms. Ferreras is a member of the council’s left-leaning Progressive Caucus, but also appears to be somewhat appealing to business interests. Her support of the controversial Willets Point development, a boon to the real estate community, as well as a business improvement district in Corona, suggest a Speaker Ferreras would be willing to closely cooperate with the business community. She also recently negotiated a land deal with the United States Tennis Association in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Still, Ms. Ferreras is not lobbying actively for the speaker’s position, declining to appear at a political conference in Puerto Rico last week and skipping the first speaker candidate forum, which was held last night. Nonetheless, insiders believe the councilwoman, who is currently on maternity leave, is interested in the influential post or at least attaining a greater leadership role.

Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Weprin and Dan Garodnick have emerged as front-runners in the contest, which will be decided after the new legislative session begins next year.

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