Quinn seeks ‘permanent affordability’ and city loans for child care

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Christine Quinn. (New York City Council via flickr)
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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gave a State of the City speech this afternoon that was arguably the most ambitious of any of the six she has now given since ascending to her current post, and which served as an indicator of some of the issues she plans to push as a mayoral candidate in 2013.

Quinn, whose coalition will likely include New York's business establishment and, at least unofficially, Michael Bloomberg, rolled out a center-left agenda which called for making low-interest loans to middle-income families to pay for early childcare, and called for doubling the number of years developers would have to lock in the rents of affordable units they build from 30 to 60 years.

Quinn also called on the city to help organized freelancers open their own version of the community health centers currently operated by 32BJ members that the speaker said are run "so efficient they can offer free coverage at one third the cost of the average H.M.O."

Quinn told the audience of assorted lawmakers, politicos and journalists gathered inside the refurbished City Council chambers inside City Hall to picture New Yorkers as they picture themselves: "Living and learning secure in the promise that we can shelter and educate our kids, care for the least fortunate among us, and dream attainable dreams about how much we can do for ourselves and each other."

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Asked after the speech about Quinn's proposal to launch a loan program to offset child-care costs for middle-income families, her aides said the plan would be to raise approximately $200,000 in private grants to fund a pilot program. They envision it offering loans of around $6,000 to families, with a 5- or 6-percent interest rate, and that repayment would begin once the children leave child care and enter the public school system.

"This program is the first of its kind in the nation and could become a model that provides financial stability and quality care for families across the country," Quinn said.

Another of her more far-reaching proposals was the plan to institute what she called "permanent affordability." She announced she had gotten the city Housing and Preservation Department "to start, now, requiring sixty year affordability in many of its biggest development."

Quinn, who started her political career as a housing advocate, said it's "an idea that's long overdue in New York City".

One definitive benchmark Quinn outlined was in the revamping the way New York City Housing Authority makes repairs to the affordable housing units it controls.

"[W]e're going to add money to their budget so they can make more than 100,000 additional repairs in the next year," she said. She also said the move would create 175 new jobs for NYCHA residents.

Similar to Bloomberg's call for creating a new tech-oriented college campus, Quinn called for creating a new "honors college, complete with its own campus".

Quinn avoided criticizing Bloomberg and his administration, while acknowledging there was room to drastically reorganize the city public schools.

"Imagine for a moment that you had the opportunity to rebuild New York City’s education system from scratch. What would you do?" she asked, before describing "a system that recognizes and respects the role the whole community plays in educating our children ... What if I told you we could build that system without starting from scratch?"

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was in the front row for the speech and left immediately afterward, along with the city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. (As I walked by them, I heard Walcott joke he was acting as her "blocker" so they could escape the crowded chamber after the speech.)

Quinn avoided another hot topic: the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy. She didn't mention it in her speech, although she outlined a plan to reduce crime by facilitating the refurbishment "every spot that invites crime, or gives criminals a place to hide."

Yesterday, Quinn released a letter she sent to the department outlining changes she'd like to see made.