Explaining a hasty exit, Quinn says she’s proud of her relationship with the mayor

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Christine Quinn. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who earlier today bolted from a press conference on the steps of City Hall after a participant insulted Michael Bloomberg, spent much of a second, ensuing, press conference, responding to questions about what her behavior reflected about her relationship with the mayor.

"Let me just start by making a reference to a prior press conference," she began, at a podium inside City Hall's Red Room. "Let me be clear. I couldn't disagree with Mayor Bloomberg more on the substance as it relates to the 'living wage' bill and couldn't agree more with the living wage coalition that the piece of legislation we will vote on today is a good and solid piece of legislation.

"That said, I feel incredibly strongly that all of us in government have to do everything we can to make sure government is civil," she said.

Quinn is running for mayor in 2013, and has a generally friendly relationship with the mayor and his supporters in the business community. But in recent months, Quinn has sought, gently, to preempt charges from her primary challengers that she is dependent on the mayor by putting some distance between herself and the administration. One of the ways in which she's done that is by supporting measures like the living wage bill, which the Council is going to pass this afternoon, and which the mayor has vowed to stop by any means at his disposal.

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Yet Quinn was for a long time ambivalent about the legislation, which will require some recipients of city economic development subsidies to pay their employees at least $10 an hour, with health benefits, or $11.50 without. Before agreeing to introduce it for a vote, she substantially narrowed its scope, excluding the tenants of subsidy recipients, as well as non-profits, manufacturers and small businesses.

She gutted the original bill, essentially.

Today, after a living wage supporter standing behind Quinn at a press conference yelled out "Pharaoh Bloomberg," Quinn castigated him and then left, before delivering her official remarks.

Quinn later described her departure, tongue in cheek, as "my graceful and elegant and dainty gazelle-like walk up the stairs."

Asked why she responded so strongly to an insult that didn't seem particularly scandalous, Quinn said, "Clearly there was a name-calling, right? And calibrating how bad a name it was or how bad a name it wasn't to me doesn't seem the point ... I think as the speaker, it's always been important to me to try to keep government above name-calling, keep things civil, so if we're gonna have name-calling, I just don't want to participate in that."

A reporter asked whether it was accurate to interpret Quinn's behavior as indicative of her closeness with the mayor.

"The mayor and I agree on a lot of stuff," she said. "And I'm glad for the fact that we agree on a lot of stuff. Because our agreement has helped us prevent layoffs of school teachers, our agreement has passed budgets where we've kept firehouses open, even if that wasn't the mayor's first opinion. Our agreement has passed a safe housing law, a law that outlaws tenant harassment. It created the Proactive Prevention bureau within H.P.D. and passed many, many rezonings that have helped this city move forward. So I'm very proud of the things we've agreed on. I'm also very proud of the things we disagreed on."