12:15 pm Oct. 18, 20111
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told business leaders this morning, "I am not somebody who is anti-Wall Street," but warned that the thousands of people joining the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations must not be ignored.
Quinn, a likely 2013 mayoral candidate who is seeking to collect support from progressive voters and less-progressive business leaders, didn't wade too deep into the root causes of the protesters' complaints. But she nevertheless said that there needed to be a government response.
"If we ignore the sentiment, then we miss the fear and worry that is out there," she said, during an address at an ABNY breakfast. "We didn't need Occupy Wall Street. We hear that fear every day out there in our neighborhoods."
Quinn said construction workers in her West Village neighborhood one day stopped her on the street and expressed worry about the debt ceiling.
"Now the debt ceiling really isn't the issue there," she said. "The issue there is politics had become so fractured that these guys were worried about their future. That's our job: try to minimize and eliminate worry of the future by demonstrating we can create jobs, put people to work and keep the jobs we have."
She also said during a question-and-answer session from the stage inside the Sheraton ball room that "a big part of my job [as City Council speaker] is to seize this moment in the economy to diversify the economy and bring in other industries."
That's because New York City's economy is still too reliant on Wall Street, which makes up about a quarter of the city's tax base, she said.
To that end, Quinn announced several Bloomberg-esque initiatives to spur job growth in the city. One is a tax credit for "angel investors" to help get capital to start-up companies. A second is to have CUNY award certificates for specialized computer programming skills. Quinn also said she'll look to create business incubators to help companies get off the ground.
While Quinn's prepared remarks were about her jobs plan, many of the questions she faced from attendees and reporters were about the protesters. Controversial CUNY board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a Pataki appointee, said many of the protesters were anti-Semitic, a description Quinn flatly denied.
Quinn also said she sided with Rep. Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and others who sought to avoid a cleaning of the park that would have forced protesters to remove their camping gear and supplies, which the protesters opposed.
"I urged that the showdown, so to speak, that was scheduled for Friday, not happen on Friday," Quinn said, to applause from the business people.
City Council member Inez Dickens afterward said Quinn was right to take that position, because that showdown "would have equated to Tiananmen Square" and led, possibly, to a "loss of life."
City Council member Letitia James said Quinn was correct to describe the protesters as being anti-poverty, not anti-Wall Street.