New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito briefly put aside their political differences Wednesday night to mark the upcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade.
The two shared the stage at a Puerto Rican Heritage reception at Gracie Mansion, a day after Mark-Viverito defied de Blasio by inserting a last-minute provision in the city’s budget to change eligibility criteria for the city’s immigrant legal services fund.
Despite not seeing eye-to-eye in recent days over the legal fund, which de Blasio has said should exclude those convicted of serious offenses, the mayor praised Mark-Viverito, who is the first Puerto Rican to hold a citywide elected position. He called her work “outstanding” and their efforts together in the past four years “wonderful.”
“She had the weight of history on her,” de Blasio told hundreds of Puerto Rican community leaders gathered at his Upper East Side residence.
The two shared a quick hug on stage, but Mark-Viverito focused the bulk of her remarks on calling for the federal government to provide more assistance to Puerto Rico, as the U.S. commonwealth grapples with a crippling economic crisis. “We need to make sure this government is responsive to the people of Puerto Rico,” she said.
Neither the mayor nor the speaker mentioned the weeks of controversy leading up to the parade, which kicks off Sunday. The controversy stemmed from the parade committee’s decision to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, the head of the separatist group FALN, which was behind a series of deadly bombings in New York City and other U.S. cities.
A number of corporate sponsors and political officials have backed out of participating in the march along Fifth Avenue in protest of Rivera’s selection.
Rivera, who has maintained he had no role in the fatal bombings, announced last week he was turning down the parade’s designation as a “National Freedom Hero” but would continue marching in the parade as a “proud” grandfather.
At Wednesday’s reception, Olympic Gold medalist Laurie Hernandez of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and TV actress Lauren Velez, both of Puerto Rican descent, were honored onstage with proclamations by the mayor and Mark-Viverito.