New York’s city council is winding down its term, and Melissa Mark-Viverito’s speakership will end with it. At her final press conference yesterday, she displayed her usual peremptory attitude, snapping at a fellow council member to shut a window because music from a group of street dancers next to City Hall Park was annoying her. The outgoing speaker, who led the charge to decriminalize quality-of-life offenses and whose primary legislative legacy has been the weakening of the NYPD as a force for proactive policing, did not seem to recognize any irony.
Some 40 bills were passed at yesterday’s meeting, but the most contentious was the Right to Know Act, a two-part measure that will complicate and hamper police interactions with the public. One provision will require officers to obtain formal permission from subjects whom they wish to stop and search—and inform them that they are under no obligation to consent. The other compels officers to carry business cards and hand them out to virtually anyone they speak with in an investigative capacity. Mayor de Blasio will sign the act into law.
The Right to Know Act continues Mark-Viverito’s efforts to depolice New York City—public urination, subway-fare evasion, hanging out in parks all night, drinking in public, smoking pot, and other “victimless” crimes now merit little more than a civil citation. In the past, if a low-level miscreant ignored a summons to appear before a judge, the city would issue a warrant; outstanding warrants could lead to arrest the next time that the scofflaw misbehaved. This was unfair, Mark-Viverito believed. “We are a City that believes in justice,” she declaimed in her most recent State of the City speech, “not in supporting a broken summons system. This is who we are.”
The speaker’s definition of “who we are” includes illegal aliens. Her views go well beyond standard municipal sanctuary policy of “don’t-ask-don’t-tell,” extending to active protection and sheltering of unlawful residents. She pushed for and passed laws forbidding the city from offering assistance to federal immigration officers; had ICE removed from Rikers Island; and stopped the police, the Department of Correction, and the Department of Probation from detaining illegal aliens on ICE’s behalf without a judicial warrant. The city now pays lawyers to defend illegal-alien convicted criminals in immigration court removal proceedings. In 2014, the city authorized the issuance of municipal identification cards to all residents—on the grounds that the “undocumented” lacked, well, documents. Following Donald Trump’s election last year, in order to protect illegal aliens from potential enforcement of immigration law, Mark-Viverito joined de Blasio in seeking to destroy documentation and records pertaining to the IDNYC program—an effort that remains tied up in the courts.
Mark-Viverito has expanded protections for workers in ways that put heavy burdens on employers. Almost all city businesses must now provide employees with five days of paid sick leave. New rules on shift scheduling for the highly competitive retail and fast-food industries, which operate on paper-thin profit margins, give employers minimal flexibility in designing schedules; they face stiff penalties for making schedule changes with less than two weeks’ notice. Celebrating themselves as progressive heroes, activist politicians like Mark-Viverito impose their social agenda on small businesses without bearing any of the economic costs.
No evaluation of Mark-Viverito’s speakership would be complete without mentioning her idée fixe: freedom for the terrorist Oscar López Rivera. López Rivera, a leader of the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), was convicted in 1981 for seditious conspiracy following a long series of bombings in New York and Chicago. FALN was responsible for bombing Fraunces Tavern, killing four people. López Rivera refused to participate in his trial, claiming he was a prisoner of war, but did not deny any of the charges.
Mark-Viverito, who delivered formal addresses with a Puerto Rican flag nearby, waged a long campaign for López Rivera’s freedom. She used her few minutes meeting Pope Francis to plead López Rivera’s case. She visited the terrorist in federal prison several times a year, and exulted when President Obama, a few weeks before leaving office, commuted his sentence. Mark-Viverito even got the National Puerto Rican Day parade to invite López Rivera to march down Fifth Avenue this year as a “National Freedom Hero”—in the very city where he had murdered and mutilated New Yorkers, including a police officer. Despite a massive boycott by corporate sponsors, the NYPD, and most elected officials (but not the mayor), Mark-Viverito paraded beside her hero, who shook his revolutionary fist at the crowd.
“I am a Stoic person,” the outgoing speaker—whose Twitter feed is littered with exclamation points and vulgar imprecations—said yesterday, before the last council meeting, “and I think where I get emotional . . . is when I think of people that are so humble and have so little, that thank me, and literally give of themselves in a way that just takes your breath away, they feel so much that you brought them some dignity.” What’s really breathtaking is Mark-Viverito’s grandiosity and sense of her own righteousness. New York City is losing her not a moment too soon.
Photo by William Alatriste/NYC Council