New York City

De Blasio Attends NYCC Gala, Praises Mark-Viverito

New York City’s progressive illuminati squeezed into a room at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 headquarters in downtown Brooklyn to welcome their favorite son, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, and recognize the work of New York Communities for Change and the organization’s late founder Jon Kest.

If de Blasio and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito wanted to quell the notion that she was his personal choice for Council speaker, they did a poor job of concealing that fact last night, as both sung each other’s praises at NYCC’s end of the year gala. Mark-Viverito was given the honor of introducing de Blasio, and used the platform wisely, twice mentioning that she was the first Council member to endorse him in the mayor’s race—at a time when he was gaining little momentum in the polls—and further positioning herself as his progressive equal.

“New York Communities for Change was the first progressive organization to endorse Bill de Blasio and I was the first Council member to do so, not because he was leading in the polls, and that was an easy choice,” Mark Viverito said. “His campaign addressed the issues that NYCC members and my constituents and constituents across the city face every day: a lack of affordable housing, underfunded schools, and the growing income inequality in this city, which is the largest in the nation.”

De Blasio was greeted by a healthy applause from the audience, even if the enthusiasm waned during his speech when a surprising number of people continued their conversations while he was on stage. De Blasio first thanked the “wonderful, progressive visionary” Mark-Viverito, remarking that she endorsed him “during the lean times.”

Before going around the room and thanking the various heavyweights in the crowd, from 1199/SEIU President George Gresham to Public Advocate-elect Letitia James and Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer, it was not lost on de Blasio how big of a moment the evening was for NYCC. Four years ago, the organization—then known as Acorn—was left for dead, the victim of a “gotcha” campaign by conservative activists, who recorded Acorn employees giving advice on tax evasion, leading to the elimination of federal funding for the organization and eventual disbandment of the organization. Led by Kest, the New York Acorn chapter continued organizing on behalf of low-income New Yorkers as NYCC and now, thanks in large part to an elevated profile on the coattails of de Blasio’s victory, the organization has re-established its footing as a viable power in city politics, as evidenced by the number of elected officials in attendance at last night’s gala.

“No matter how many tough times we’ve been through, this time together we won something that will have an impact for people all over this city and for years and years to come, and this victory was your victory,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio also paid tribute to Kest, who passed away last year, noting all of the people in the audience whom he inspired and saying, “The best thing we can do to keep remembering and appreciating Jon Kest is to keep winning progressive victories and keep organizing people.”

As the room began to clear out after de Blasio’s cameo appearance, Dan Cantor, the executive director of the Working Families Party, another group that finds itself in a plum position as a notable ally of de Blasio’s, reflected on the resurrection of NYCC as a viable political power, echoing the mayor-elect’s sentiment that his victory marked a new day for the organization and the city’s progressive movement.

“Sometimes the good guys win,” Cantor said. “The fact that four years ago the New York Post and their allies fabricated a pretty serious attack on Acorn that eventually took them down, but the actual people didn’t stop, they didn’t give up, that’s the lesson…and they have come back with a delightful vengeance, so it’s really satisfying for people who were with them then to see them thriving now.”

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