Vice President of Strategic Engagement
Melissa Mark-Viverito served as the Speaker of the New York City Council, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold citywide office, and represented the 8th District, which includes El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and raised in San Juan, she worked for over a decade in local activism, nonprofit organizations and grassroots labor organizing before being elected to the City Council in 2005.
Melissa Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected to serve as New York City Council Speaker in January 2014. As Speaker, she has focused on transparency in government and policies that generate socioeconomic opportunity and combat systemic inequality.
In May 2014, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito implemented sweeping rules reforms that increased transparency in city government and streamlined the legislative process to better serve New Yorkers. Mark-Viverito also established budget reforms to ensure City Council resources are more equitably distributed across districts based on poverty levels.
Led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City has emerged as a national leader in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. In September 2014, Mark-Viverito announced a groundbreaking public -private partnership with The Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, and citywide legal service providers to fund legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation in New York City. While unaccompanied children across the nation unjustly face deportation proceedings without any legal assistance, this initiative guarantees a lawyer for all unaccompanied minors in New York City and also provides social, mental, and health services. Speaker Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council passed legislation in October 2014 limiting the City’s compliance with detention requests issued by United States immigration authorities without a warrant from a federal judge. This legislation ensures that individuals are not detained without sufficient cause or needlessly torn away from their families. In January 2015, New York City launched IDNYC, municipal identification card open to any resident of New York City. This initiative, spearheaded by Speaker Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council, offers safe and secure identification for all New Yorkers fourteen and older, regardless of immigration status. Speaker Mark-Viverito is also proud supporter of the New York Family Unity Project, the nation’s first government-funded legal representation program for detained immigrants which provides high-quality, holistic representation to New Yorkers detained and facing deportation who cannot afford an attorney. As other U.S cities seek to implement similar municipal reforms, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has traveled across the United States to share New York City’s progressive immigration policies.
Speaker Mark-Viverito is also an outspoken advocate for local and national criminal justice reform. Under her leadership, the New York City Council initiated a citywide bail fund that will assist low-income individuals in qualifying cases to post bail rather than spend needless time in jail while awaiting trial. Speaker Mark-Viverito also continues to push for the use of summonses instead of arrests for certain low-level, non-violent offenses, a policy shift that would decrease the volume of individuals detained and jailed unnecessarily.
As the first person (and woman) of color to serve as Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito has focused on increasing opportunity and equality for young women across New York City. In 2015, Speaker Mark-Viverito launched the Young Women’s Initiative to address disparities faced by women in such areas as education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. This collaboration with policy experts, service providers, philanthropy, City agencies and young women themselves will assess New York City’s efforts to serve the next generation of female leaders and make recommendations on how the Council can supporting gender equality for women in New York City.
In 2011, she was one of four Council Members to pioneer the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City, a grassroots process by which residents can vote directly to fund locally-developed projects in their communities. Since Mark-Viverito’s speakership, Participatory Budgeting has spread to over twenty-four districts across New York City and funds $32 million in community projects.
Before becoming Speaker in 2014, Melissa served as founding co-chair of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus. From 2010 -2013, she also chaired the City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation.
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