Mark-Viverito opponents hope to avoid carnage

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Melissa Mark-Viverito walks with her supporters outside City Hall. (William Alatriste/NYC Council)
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A City Council massacre may be in the offing, but after meetings with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito over the past few days, some likely targets are still expecting a measure of mercy.

"One of the things they told us was that they would try to take care of the people in our group, not be vindictive," said a Council source who was in her rival Dan Garodnick's camp. "We won't necessarily get mass firings and maybe there would be other places for them to work in the [de Blasio] administration."

Since becoming City Council speaker, Mark-Viverito has been meeting individually with members who supported her rival to discuss how she will dole out committee assignments and leadership posts.

Although she and members of her inner circle are promising to treat all members fairly, sources on both sides of the Council split generally expect that the Queens and Bronx Democratic party loyalists who backed Garodnick won't be left with much once the spoils are doled out. There are presently 43 committees and subcommittees, meaning eight members, including the speaker, will not get a chairmanship.

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In addition, longtime Council staffers are bracing themselves for what they call the "Valentine's Day massacre," the day when former speakers fire dozens of employees loyal to their predecessors. During the first year of the tenure of Mark-Viverito's predecessor, Christine Quinn, Valentine's Day fell on a Friday, a traditional day on which to bury negative news.

(Mark-Viverito is already proving highly adept at this technique.)

"They've asked that people not be retaliatorily fired," said one Council source. "That's kind of a distinction without a difference. People who got here and lived by the sword are likely going to die by the sword."

Among the victims may be Quinn's well-paid top staffers, Ramon Martinez and Charles Meara, who are also loyal members of the Queens Democratic party, which backed Garodnick.

The two are still on Council payroll but Mark-Viverito will probably replace them with her own team, which is likely to include longtime Council employee Jeffrey Rodus. Rodus, the Council's deputy finance director, is a member of the Brooklyn Democratic party, which provided decisive support for Mark-Viverito's speaker bid.

The new speaker, a Manhattan Democrat and member of the council's Progressive Caucus, is expected to place her liberal allies in key posts.

She plans to give Queens Democrats Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer, who broke with their county to join her camp, the finance committee and a top leadership post, several Council sources said. (It is unclear which of them will get which plum.)

Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who founded the caucus and co-chairs it with Mark-Viverito, is in line to become a member of her inner circle focused on policy and legislation, though his exact title and duties are still being determined, a Council source said.

And Queens Democrat Daniel Dromm, one of her earliest backers, is said to be a top contender for the coveted education committee chairmanship. (Dromm, a former public school teacher, emailed his colleagues an invitation this week to a meeting to discuss education issues with several advocacy groups.)

But several Brooklyn Democrats not aligned with the Progressive Caucus are also slated for powerful posts: David Greenfield is likely to become chairman of the powerful Land Use Committee, Vincent Gentile is being considered for the Council's leadership team and newcomer Rafael Espinal, another loyal Brooklyn Democrat, was already placed on the temporary Rules Committee, which was established last week to determine leadership and committee posts for the next four years.

(Other than Espinal, Mark-Viverito only placed her closest allies on the Rules Committee, including Lander, who will chair it.)

Queens and Bronx party leaders have asked Mark-Viverito if returning members could retain their current committee chairmanships, but she would not commit, one Council source told Capital.

Mark-Viverito secured enough votes to become speaker after receiving the backing of Bill de Blasio, who pressured members to support her. Garodnick conceded shortly before the actual vote on Jan. 8, allowing Mark-Viverito to be elected unanimously by her 50 colleagues.

Shortly before the vote, de Blasio's top political aide, Emma Wolfe, met with Queens and Bronx Democratic Party representatives to begin reconciling after the bitter fight.

"I think we wanted to offer our opinion on what we thought going forward," said one source who attended the meeting on behalf of Garodnick's supporters.

"We want the Council to be constructed in such a way where it's acknowledged where the expertise is," added the source, indicating Queens and the Bronx will fight to keep its members in charge of important committees.

Union operative Alison Hirsh of 32BJ, who negotiated on Mark-Viverito's behalf with county leaders, repeatedly asked members which committees they would prefer during the private talks, another Council source said.

Mark-Viverito's spokesman, Eric Koch, declined comment on Hirsh's role in the process.

The new speaker is also considering restructuring the leadership team. Quinn favored a traditional model, with a majority leader who earned a $23,000 stipend, a deputy majority leader who took home an extra $20,000, two assistant majority leaders who made $15,000 and a majority whip who earned $11,000.

Mark-Viverito can alter the stipends, which would require a full Council vote.

Committee and leadership assignments are expected to be decided by the next council meeting scheduled for Jan. 22.

--additional reporting by Azi Paybarah and Gloria Pazmino