Melissa Mark-Viverito wants to represent the South Bronx in Congress, but doesn’t live there — turning home-borough bragging rights into instant campaign fodder for her competitors.
“I am from The Bronx, she is not. I live in The Bronx, she does not,” said Assemblymember Michael Blake, who is among the now half-dozen Democrats vying to replace retiring Rep. José Serrano in the 15th Congressional District.
“The South Bronx should be represented by a Bronxite — a true Bronxite — who has lived the struggles of working people in The Bronx,” said another candidate, Councilmember Ritchie Torres, who represents Fordham, East Tremont and Belmont.
In an interview with THE CITY Tuesday announcing her candidacy, former City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito attempted to forestall the critics by saying she lived “literally one stop from the district” on the train — in East Harlem.
Mark-Viverito didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Candidates don’t need to live in the Congressional district they’re running in, but must reside in the state.
A Past Bronx Cheer
Mark-Viverito did serve part of the district when she was in the Council — even if she didn’t always want to: In 2012, she was a critic of the redrawing of Council boundaries that greatly expanded the Bronx portion of her district.
In a 2013 article in the Columbia Spectator, Mark-Viverito said she arrived late to a Manhattan community board meeting because she had gotten lost on her way there after leaving a Bronx hearing on the proposed redistricting.
“I don’t even know where in The Bronx I was, to be honest,” Mark-Viverito was quoted by the Spectator article as saying. “I took a detour and ended up in Jersey.”
“Hopefully this will not be the story of my life the next four years,” she added.
Her protest of the plan didn’t win her favor with Bronx Democrats. In a September 2013 Democratic primary election for her Council seat, she took the Bronx vote by 11 ballots.
‘This is Home’
Blake, who, like Mark-Viverito, unsuccessfully ran for public advocate this year, got the most votes of any candidate in The Bronx.
“This is home for me,” he said.
Jonathan Ortiz, another contender for the post, said: “She will never be able to represent the district because she doesn’t live in the district.”
“Give me a break,” added Ortiz, a Bronx nonprofit financial counselor who is from Mott Haven and lives in Soundview. “She will not win in District 15.”
Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr., who is also running, did not respond to requests for comment.
Candidate Tomas Ramos, who lives in Morrisania and works as program director at the Bronx River Community Center, didn’t take a shot at Mark-Viverito over her residency.
“I don’t think it’s a huge deal,” he said. “She’s already served part of that district in the Council, and East Harlem, and it’s [the community] kind of the same.”
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