Gentile backs Mark-Viverito for council speaker

The man who will soon become the City Council’s most senior member is backing a liberal councilwoman from East Harlem to become the next council speaker.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) announced on Thursday that he is supporting Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) in her quest to take the council’s top job.

“Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito has been a colleague of mine in the trenches for many years and I am confident she will lead our body in a more democratic, transparent, and inclusive direction,” Gentile said.

Gentile, 54, who has been in the council since 2003, will have the most seniority in that legislative body once the new term begins on Jan. 1.

The council members will officially vote for their next speaker on Jan. 8, but jockeying for the post started almost immediately after Bill de Blasio’s landslide victory in the mayor’s race. The current council speaker, Christine Quinn was unable to run for re-election to her council seat due to the city’s term limits law. She ran for mayor and lost to Bill de Blasio in the Democratic Primary.

Late Wednesday, Mark-Viverito, 44, issued a statement in which she claimed she had enough votes to win the speakership. Winning the post requires the support of at least 26 of the council’s 51 members. In her statement, the councilwoman cited support from 30 members. “I am humbled to have the confidence and support my colleagues have placed in me,” she stated. Mark-Viverito is co-chairman of the council’s Progressive Caucus.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio had thrown his support behind Mark-Viverito’s candidacy, a move that all but assured that the borough’s 16-member council delegation would also support her.

Gentile acknowledged Seddio’s leadership in his statement supporting Mark-Viverito. “I extend my congratulations to Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and commend Kings County Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio for his leadership and commitment to the entire Brooklyn delegation throughout this process,” he said.

Gentile also noted that he and Mark-Viverito were both early de Blasio supporters. “Councilwoman Mark-Viverito and I were among Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s earliest supporters – and together with Chairman Seddio, we look forward to helping make the Mayor-Elect’s vision for New York City a reality. This is a very exciting time for our borough and our city,” he said.

The Times also reported de Blasio and his allies made no secret of the mayor-elect’s support for Mark-Viverito.

But the Wall Street Journal reported that the race for speaker might not be over.

Manhattan Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-Upper East Side), who is also running for the post, issued a statement in which he refused to back down, the Journal reported. “It is premature to declare victory. We are going to elect a Speaker on Jan. 8, and I hope to earn the votes of my colleagues then,” Garodnick, 41, said.