Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke with Queens County Politics this week to discuss her campaign for Public Advocate.
The seasoned local politician, who represented East Harlem and the Bronx in the City Council, has made improving MTA service a cornerstone of her campaign, offering an innovative solution to the currently unsustainable system — marijuana legalization.
“We are at a moment in time where the governor has said he supports legalization…we have a Democratic Senate. We have an opportunity where there is the political will to get marijuana legalized,” Mark-Viverito told KCP. “There’s already a framework because we do have medical marijuana in the state…that rollout can happen can pretty quickly, and the revenue that we would see is something we can capture and invest in the transportation infrastructure.”
Mark-Viverito proceeded to clarify that not all tax revenues from marijuana legalization would go to modernizing the MTA. “The other portion of the revenue [should] be used to support communities that are disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs and…creating opportunities for them,” she said.
In order to achieve this goal, Mark-Viverito has suggested “building a coalition” to legalize marijuana at the state level, which will allow “other pieces to be put in place.”
She also called the quality of life in the city’s public housing projects “a real crisis.” “We are at a point now where there have been conversations at the federal level whether or not NYCHA will go into receivership,” Mark-Viverito told this reporter. “That’s the worst thing that could happen under this administration and in this climate.
On why she’s the best candidate for public advocate, Mark-Viverito explained that she is “by far the most qualified” choice, and asserted her track record of “accomplishment and success,” pointing to several pieces of legislation she helped pass, particularly on behalf of immigrants, including limits on interactions between city officials and ICE, providing legal representation to unaccompanied minors, and her success in persuading Mayor Bill De Blasio to close Rikers Island.
“[Advocacy] is a part of who I am. It’s in my DNA. It’s something that I’ve historically done before I was a council member,” she said. “It’s not only about beating my chest about issues and screaming at the top of y lungs. It’s about getting things done.”