Melissa Mark-Viverito is a leading progressive voice in New York. Melissa made history in 2005 when she was elected as the first Latina to represent Spanish Harlem/El Barrio in the New York City Council. In 2014, she once again made history becoming the first person, and woman, of color to serve as Speaker for the New York City Council. As New York City’s next Public Advocate, Melissa will continue to stand up for our city’s most vulnerable New Yorkers.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Melissa is a product of a family that prized education and service to others. She attended Columbia University in New York City where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Melissa was selected to attend the National Urban Fellows Program and earned her Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, CUNY. 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 championed women, immigrants, our LGBTQ communities, and black and brown New Yorkers that were historically ignored by city government. Throughout her career, Melissa has stood up to power— and stood up for New Yorkers. Melissa called for closing Rikers Island, demanded the city decriminalize low-level offenses, and fought for lawyers for all undocumented immigrants. Every time, the establishment opposed her — but she brought community leaders and advocates to the table and delivered.
Under Melissa’s leadership, New York City emerged as a national leader in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. As Speaker, Melissa announced a groundbreaking public -private partnership to fund legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation in New York City. In 2014, she led the passage of legislation to limit the City’s compliance with detention requests issued by federal immigration authorities without a warrant from a federal judge. A year later, thanks to Melissa’s leadership, New York City launched IDNYC, a municipal identification card open to any resident of New York City.
Criminal Justice Reformer
Melissa is an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform. Melissa was the first citywide official to call for closing Rikers Island and put forward a plan to close it—and convinced the Mayor to get on board. Under her leadership, the New York City Council initiated a citywide bail fund that assists low-income individuals in qualifying cases to post bail rather than spend needless time in jail while awaiting trial. As Speaker, she successfully pushed for the decriminalization of low-level offenses — leading to a 90% drop in criminal court summonses.
In the Council, Melissa championed working class and low-income families, youth, seniors and immigrant communities. She was a staunch advocate for the creation and preservation of income-targeted housing and for our city’s public housing program.