New location will serve constituents weekdays near 138th St.
The Speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, opened a new district office in Mott Haven on June 27. She was re-elected by a landslide last September to represent Council District 8, which includes Mott Haven and East Harlem.
Mark-Viverito, who was elected as speaker in January, cut the ribbon on her new space at 214 St. Ann’s Avenue between East 137th and 138th streets, a half a block from NYCHA’s Millbrook Houses.
Mark-Viverito says she expects to spend every other week in the Mott Haven segment of her district. She told a small crowd on the sidewalk in front of her new South Bronx headquarters that she had chosen “a location that was central,” and a building “with a good landlord.”
The new office will be open to the public Monday-Friday from 9-5, with a staff of two to greet constituents.
Several residents from the NYCHA Millbrook Houses down the street came to the ribbon cutting. They had just received word last week that a project they had proposed under Mark-Viverito’s Participatory Budgeting initiative in 2012 had received the $300,000 in funding it needed to proceed.
Mark-Viverito was one of four City Council members who enacted the Participatory Budgeting initiative in 2011, calling on residents to vote on local proposals that would be funded from her discretionary budget. In late June, the funds were released for a project calling for the construction of a 30′ by 90′ greenhouse at Millbrook Houses.
Award-winning environmental advocate and local resident Ray Figueroa, who proposed the greenhouse project to feed and employ residents, had at times voiced skepticism of the Councilwoman’s commitment to Mott Haven during that process. But he complimented her for her choice of location, in an area he says her constituents have plenty to complain about.
“That’s a statement,” he said. The new office is sandwiched between the traffic-choked intersection of 138th St. and St. Ann’s, Millbrook Houses’ 16 buildings and 3,000 tenants and industrial Port Morris.
“It’s in an area where there’s pollution, environmental health issues, disproportionate incarceration rates,” said Figueroa. “This is an area with tremendous need.”
Other hearts and minds in the neighborhood are still to be won over, however, despite having one of the city’s most powerful voices around the corner.
“I do not believe she’s for us,” said Von Franklin, another Millbrook resident involved in the greenhouse project, who said the Participatory Budgeting process was flawed and that no elected official would put the area’s needs before their own interests. “I believe it’s a one-sided deal.”