But when board members of the nonprofit Casabe Housing Development Fund met with Melissa Mark-Viverito, now front-runner for the City Council speakership, they faced a lashing out of left field.
“You used the occasion to rant against [board member Yolanda Sanchez] . . . because she had not actively supported you the first time you ran for City Council,” Casabe directors wrote in a February 2011 letter to Mark-Viverito. “The clear implication that your office engages in ‘quid pro quo’ practices . . . completely shocked us.”
The senior-housing group also wrote, “In your vitriolic rant, you voiced dismay that the African-American constituents consider you a racist and that the Puerto Ricans dislike you.”
Many activists interviewed said they feared what would happen if Mark-Viverito headed the council — claiming that advocates who stand up to her are often blacklisted.
For Casabe, it all started when Fernando Salicrup’s arts group, Taller Boricua, was evicted from a city-owned cultural center in 2011 after more than a decade.
Mark-Viverito said Salicrup wasn’t running the space properly and asked the Economic Development Corp. to find a new operator. Casabe stepped in to propose their ideas, which the angry lawmaker rejected. The center now languishes vacant.
Salicrup could not be reached for comment, but a source said he was booted in retaliation over his support of now-Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez.
“Everyone in our neighborhood is afraid of Melissa,” said Gwen Goodwin, an East Harlem activist who ran against Mark-Viverito for City Council last year. “It brings into question the discretion of the person you’re asking to be the next-most- powerful person in the city.”
The lefty lawmaker was the first council member to support the bid of Mayor de Blasio, who in return has been pushing her for speaker.
“It’s too much power to put in her hands,” said Jo Ann Lawson, who claims Mark-Viverito booted her from the community board in March 2013 after 10 years of service in order to add more Latino members.
Lawson said Mark-Viverito would often call board members and tell them how to vote.
Neighborhood resentment deepened in 2012, after the lawmaker helped cancel a city contract held by a Puerto Rican nonprofit for 20 years for the Leonard Covello Senior Center — giving it to an Upper East Side group.
While the wealthy councilwoman donned “99%” T-shirts during Occupy Wall Street protests, she’s come under fire for taking advantage of tax breaks reserved for the poor.
The Puerto Rico-born politician, the daughter of a rich hospital administrator, owns $1.5 million in real estate. Yet she obtained an interest-free loan under a city program to help low-income people buy homes.
“It’s a shame that Melissa has not only gotten [into office] but that she really is a fraud,” said Goodwin, who last week filed a million-dollar suit against her.
Goodwin claims the councilwoman put a grotesque mural of an impaled rooster on her building while they ran for district leader last year. She says the painting is a “death threat.”
Still, Mark-Viverito lavishes money on supporters, giving $65,000 in the past two years to low-income advocates Community Voices Heard and helping to push $160,000 in council funds to Picture the Homeless, run by her ally Lynn Lewis, according to budget data.
Franklin Plaza, a 1,632-unit co-op, received a $1-million grant from Mark-Viverito. The board posted flyers requesting residents re-elect her.
But Army veteran Sgt. Jose Sanchez, who lives at the co-op, says he hasn’t been able to get the lawmaker to help fund a children’s boxing club. The councilwoman canceled the last three meetings scheduled with El Barrio Boxing Association, he said.
“I was asked to vote for her,” Sanchez told The Post. “I felt disgusted about it. She can give my building $1 million but not $40,000 for our group? This is for the kids of East Harlem.”
A rep for Mark-Viverito called claims against her “false.”
“While she can’t help fund every group, Melissa has an outstanding . . . relationship with the overwhelming majority of community groups,” said spokesman Eric Koch.
“It’s demonstratively false to claim otherwise.”