First Hispanic Elected New York City Council Speaker, Most Powerful Municipal Post After Mayor

  • Melissa Mark-Viverito

    Melissa Mark-Viverito  (Facebook)

  • Melissa Mark-Viverito with Bill de Blasio during his campaign for New York City mayor.

    Melissa Mark-Viverito with Bill de Blasio during his campaign for New York City mayor.  (Facebook)

New York City made history Wednesday.

The city council elected its first Hispanic as speaker – the second most powerful position in city government after that of mayor.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who represents East Harlem, was elected unanimously by a 51 to 0 margin on Wednesday.

Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick had opposed Mark-Viverito but abandoned his bid in the moments before the city council's vote.

“Today that process comes to a conclusion, and in the spirit of strengthening the council, which animated my candidacy from the start, I now formally concede to the next Speaker of the city council — my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito,” he said.

Mark-Viverito, who is 44, has blazed trails before. In 2005, Mark-Viverito became the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina elected to serve as council member for the 8th Council District.

Mark-Viverito, whose district includes East Harlem, was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended Columbia University.

The city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, pushed for Mark-Viverito to be speaker. She also had the backing of major unions.

Mark-Viverito was a vocal supporter of his candidacy. She helped create the council’s progressive caucus.

De Blasio took the unusual step in recent weeks of injecting himself into the speaker race, calling council members to lobby on his candidate's behalf.

The speaker has the ability to speed up or obstruct the mayor's agenda. Mark-Viverito will succeed Christine Quinn, who served as council speaker for eight years.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez lauded the election of the first Hispanic as speaker.

"We have made history today,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “We elected the first Latina speaker in the history of the city council, but we also elected someone who has strong progressive values, cares for social justice and is unafraid to fight on behalf of all New Yorkers.”

“Melissa Mark-Viverito has demonstrated exemplary character, leadership and drive during her time as an elected official,” Rodriguez said, “and will use these traits to take the council to new heights in developing a more inclusive city for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Mark-Viverito, however, has amassed her share of foes.

The councilwoman is facing a $1 million lawsuit claiming that she attempted to put a curse on her former rival in the primary elections by having a mural showing a decapitated chicken painted on the building where the opponent, Gwen Goodwin, lives, according to The New York Daily News.

Mark-Viverito balked at the accusation, and mocked it on Twitter.

“Darn! My little secret revealed!” Mark-Viverito tweeted when someone asked if she was “a voodoo temptress.” She added the hashtag #cantmakethisup.

Mark-Viverito also finds herself accused of failing to report rental income on city financial disclosure forms, despite indications that she is leasing units in an East Harlem building that she owns, according to the Daily News, which first reported it.

“From 2009 to 2012, three people other than Mark-Viverito have voted while listing the building as their principal residence, Board of Elections records show,” the newspaper reported. “Yet, in each of those years, Mark-Viverito reported on her city financial disclosure forms that she received no rental income from the property.”

The council speaker-elect says the omission was a mistake that will be corrected.

"Now that that information has been brought to my attention that I must report it, we are amending as we speak. I am transparent and accountable. And that information will be made available," Mark-Viverito said, according to NY1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.