Quinn’s appeal to immigrant and middle-class voters

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Christine Quinn made an appeal to immigrant and middle-class voters today in her final State of the City address as Council speaker.

Quinn, the front-runner in the Democratic mayoral primary, began by talking about her Irish-immigrant ancestry: how her grandfather's first job in New York City involved shoveling coal into a slaughterhouse furnace at the site of the future United Nations, and how he ended up owning a small business and sending his sons to college.

"Every day, as I travel the five boroughs, I talk to people with the same hopes for the future, with the same incredible work ethic, and the same belief that there is no place better in the world than New York City," she said.

Lerida Mojica, a Mexican native who built a successful business in New York City making "cake pops," is one contemporary example of that, according to Quinn.

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Quinn proposed programs that she said would spur economic development in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Sunset Park. She announced that the Council would translate home-health care tests and textbooks into languages other than English, and allocated $13 million to create enough seats in adult education programs to accommodate the 16,000 undocumented immigrants who need a G.E.D. to qualify for the president's deferred action program.

Her speech demonstrated "a clear, strategic focus on Latinos and the Bronx, which are both very much in play in this election," said Neal Kwatra, a Democratic political consultant who is finishing up a stint as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's chief of staff.

Kwatra also said, "It is not the 2001 latino electorate: it's less Puerto Rican, more Dominican, it's more Mexican and it's more South American. There are not the traditional gatekeepers as there were in the Herman Badillo days or even the Freddy Ferrer days."

In the same speech, Quinn also made a fairly distinct appeal to the middle class.

Building on a report she released this morning called "The Middle Class Squeeze," she outlined a program designed to make New York City more affordable.

First, she proposed building 40,000 new middle-income apartments, to be underwritten through government efficiencies and the issuance of new debt.

To keep those and other affordable units "affordable" for at least 30 years, she said, she is working with Assembly housing chair Keith Wright and Senator Marty Golden to introduce legislation in Albany to borrow and dedicate money for that purpose.

Separately, and apparently drawing on a Real Estate Board of New York proposal, she announced that she's working with Golden and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to introduce a bill in Albany that would encourage landlords to make market-rate units affordable in exchange for a property-tax cap.

"I refuse to accept the notion that large portions of our city are destined to become a luxury only available to the wealthiest among us," she said, naming, by way of example, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Astoria and Long Island City.

Quinn also said she would update the city's housing mainenance code for the first time in decades.

"Contrary to what you might think, this idea is supported by both tenant advocates and the real estate industry," she said.

And finally, she would create a distressed housing preservation fund, so that the city could buy overleveraged properties, repair them, and then put them back on the market.

The issue of landlords overleveraging multi-family apartment buildings and then allowing them to fall into disrepair as they go through the foreclosure process, is one that's affected neighborhoods throughout the city, including in the Bronx and upper Manhattan.