At a birthday fundraiser last night in East Harlem, friends and supporters gathered to toast City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito’s re-election bid for a redrawn district. But for the two-term progressive rabble-rouser, there is far more at stake than keeping her seat.
“We want to see her Speaker!” shouted one supporter as the group crowded around Ms. Viverito at the cozy El Kallejon on East 117th Street to hear her remarks.
In the heart of Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s Chelsea base, the boisterous Democratic club named for late gay rights activist Jim Owles met last night for their first meeting of the year where they reiterated their current mission: ensuring Ms. Quinn, who could become the first lesbian to lead New York City, never, ever, ever leads New York City.
“The harshest dictatorship I’ve ever seen has been under Christine Quinn,” said Allen Roskoff, a notorious antagonist of Ms. Quinn’s and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
Heidi Anne Wys, an adviser to Puerto Rico House Speaker Jenniffer González, has tweeted racist things about President Barack Obama over the course of the last month or two, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is just not going to take it anymore.
“Wah! Wah! I feel like vomiting! Dinner with a guy borned in Kenya and claims he was borned in Hawaii!” Ms. Wys tweeted at the President offering contributors the chance of dining with him back in June, for example.
This afternoon, the Women’s Issues Committee of the City Council held a hearing on a resolution proposed by Council members Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito that would call for Village Voice Media to shut down the “adult” section of its classified ad site Backpage.com. Village Voice Media, which publishes 13 alt-weeklies around the country including its the flagship Village Voice in New York, has faced mounting pressure over Backpage, which opponents claim encourages human trafficking. At today’s hearing, the company’s general counsel, Liz McDougall, spoke on behalf of Backpage and emotions ran high with tears, laughter and shouting all on display.
A man named Angel Molina is challenging incumbent Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito for her seat in the 8th district, which includes East Harlem, Central Park and portions of the Upper West Side and the Bronx. Mr. Molina, who recently filed to form a campaign committee to run for the seat, also has a website where he identifies fighting education spending cuts and raising the minimum wage as his the main issues on his platform.
“My commitment to social justice and growing up in a poor neighborhood gives me a distinct cultural perspective that I often use as my ethical compass to provide benefit to my community,” Mr. Molina said in a statement announcing his candidacy on his site.
Several Council members held a rally along with several members of the Occupy Wall Street movement to call attention to allegedly excessive force used by police who cleared crowds at the Occupy protest in Zuccotti Park Saturday night. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been a staunch supporter of the Occupy movement and claims he was the victim of excessive police force when he was arrested during the eviction of the protest from Zuccotti Park last November, said there will be a massive “Day of Action” for Occupy next Saturday, that he is working on a bill to establish a “protester’s Bill of Rights” and that he plans to push Christine Quinn to hold a hearing reviewing the NYPD’s handling of the occupiers.
“I am here today because, on Saturday night, I saw the NYPD using brutal excessive force arresting peaceful people that had gathered in this park,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “More than 1,000 people came here to celebrate our sixth month anniversary in a peacful way, saying Occupy is here, Occupy is alive, Occupy will not leave.”
Law & Order
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly fielded questions on the department’s controversial stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance programs during a contentious hearing of the City Council Public Safety Committee. Mr. Kelly was ostensibly testifying about the NYPD’s preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year, but the hearing quickly turned into a heated discussion of the department’s most controversial policies when committee members questioned the commissioner following his testimony.
Village Voice Media’s general counsel Liz McDougall sent a statement to The Politicker today calling the effort by City Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander to shut the controversial “adult” section of their classified ad site Backpage.com “misguided.” Ms. Mark-Viverito and Mr. Lander announced a resolution yesterday calling for the site to be closed because it “serves as a platform to traffic minors for sex.” Ms. McDougall, acknowledged children are trafficked in ads on the site, but she argued policing the traffickers will be harder if the ads move elsewhere.
“The demand to shut down this section on Backpage.com will simply drive such content to other Internet portals who will move their advertising websites into offshore entities and out of reach of US law enforcement — and the ability to trace the traffickers and the children that they are trafficking for rescue and prosecution will be lost,” Ms. McDougall said.
Councilman Brad Lander and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito introduced a resolution today asking Village Voice Media to shut down the controversial “adult” section of its classified ad site Backpage.com. The resolution criticizes Backpage as a “platform to traffic minors for sex.”
“Whereas, Backpage.com’s adult section is facilitating sex trafficking and should alter its current practice; now, therefore, be it resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls on Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its online classified site, Backpage.com, because it serves as a platform to traffic minors for sex.”
Not So Fresh Feeling
The plan to open a new headquarters for online grocer FreshDirect in the the Bronx continues to draw a mixed reception from local politicians and community members. Today, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent a letter to the NYC Industrial Development Agency asking them to slow the approval process for the $74 million in tax exemptions being provided to the company as part of a $127.8 million package of grants, tax credits and other incentives from the City, the State, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. Meanwhile, Mr. Diaz and the BOEDC announced they reached an agreement with FreshDirect to address concerns of those opposed to the plan and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce issued a statement in support of the FreshDirect facility.