Bronx members stick with Garodnick

Dan Garodnick. (William Alatriste/NY City Council)
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Bronx City Council members say they are subject to intimidation tactics for supporting Dan Garodnick's underdog bid for speaker, but insisted they are sticking with him in Wednesday's vote.

"This whole process has been handled through manipulation and threats," Councilwoman Annabel Palma, a Bronx Democrat, told Capital. "People have been called and told they would not get help in their districts when it came to budget time."

She also said members backing Garodnick over his rival, Melissa Mark-Viverito, were threatened with primary challenges in future races.

Palma would not say who specifically made such threats but spoke of the broad coalition supporting Garodnick's rival in the race, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the council's Progressive Caucus.

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"This whole process of the Working Families Party involvement and the unions having such a heavy hand on who gets a speaker is totally disrespectful to the entire Council," she said.

The Council's 51 members select the next speaker.

Palma added, "I've been asked if I'm not thinking about my political future."

Seven of the eight Bronx members say they are sticking with Garodnick, despite a last-minute push from de Blasio, who met with them on Sunday night to try and persuade them to switch their support. (Bronx newcomer Ritchie Torres backs Mark-Viverito.)

Palma said de Blasio, who has been calling members for the past month to influence the race, boasted of his own experience as a two-term councilman during the Bronx meeting.

"He said that because he was a councilman, and knows how the council functions and because he won (the mayors race), he has the right to be in the middle of speaker-race negotiations," she said.

De Blasio's influence appears to be a deciding factor in determining who will rule the Council: After he called members last month, Mark-Viverito announced 30 members who support her, which would be four more than the 26 needed to secure the victory.

Garodnick's team, backed by the Queens and Bronx Democratic parties, privately express confidence some of her support is tenuous and he can still seize the vote.

De Blasio declined to discuss his meeting with Bronx members during a press conference in City Hall Monday afternoon, when he announced six new administration appointments.

He simply described it as a "very productive and respectful meeting."

When pressed about whether his involvement in the race is appropriate, he said, "It is natural for the mayor to meet with members of the City Council. We had a very productive conversation. They're going to make their own decision."

Garodnick's supporters have criticized the mayor for swaying the process to determine who will lead the body that is intended to be a check on his power.

"It's such an overstep and it's such a violation and it's so thuggish from these so-called progressives," one source said.

Meanwhile de Blasio defended Mark-Viverito after a report that she hid rental income from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board.

He said disclosure forms are "complicated and ever-changing" and called her a "person of tremendous integrity."

De Blasio himself did not disclose rental income on his 2012 financial disclosure form.