East Harlem City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s handling of a 2007 rezoning bid is, for her constituents, representative of both the likely council speaker’s persistence and tendency to polarize.
The debate, which centered on nonprofit Jewish Home Lifecare’s bid to demolish its 106th Street buildings and replace them with two new structures, was an amalgamation of real estate issues a council speaker confronts regularly, including land use proposals, community anger and campaign contributions that come along following a government action. Directly following a two-year wrangle over new Upper West Side building height restrictions, residents were surprised to find Mark-Viverito strongly supporting the Jewish Home project.
“I was blindsided,” Sheldon Fine, then the chairman of Community Board 7, told the New York Times. “Her focus was not a conciliatory one.”
Mark-Viverito, for her part, defends her role in the proposal, saying her interest is always “to bring people to the table, make sure all sides are being listened to and arrive at some level of midpoint.”
The affair left some of her constituents frustrated, while her supporters say she worked tirelessly and fairly.
“After the deal came down, we wanted to be part of the process, and without her we would have been shut out,” Haydee Rosario, president of the 145-147th West 105th Street Housing Development Corporation board of directors, which neighbored the nursing home, told the Times. Mark-Viverito, she added, worked to maintain a connection between the community and the nursing home. [NYT] — Julie Strickland