Sounding ‘like a mayor,’ Quinn unveils serious ideas for serious spending

Al Vann, Lew Fidler, Quinn and Bill Rudin. (William Alatriste)
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"I think Christine Quinn sounded like a mayor," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, standing outside of City Hall in a beige overcoat with a purple umbrella, as attendees streamed out of the City Council speaker's State of the City speech this afternoon.

"F.D.R. is back," Maloney said about it, and also, "It was very Koch-like."

Maloney explained the F.D.R. comparison by saying that Quinn's speech, which called for borrowing money to help spur development of middle-class housing and a middle-class child-care tax credit "wasn't lofty rhetoric. It was specifics about what we're going to do to keep New York City the greatest city in the world. ... F.D.R. had all these programs and projects: the rebuilding program, the neighborhood program. It was a program to throw the ladder down for others to climb up that American dream. I loved the speech."

Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, said Quinn's call to borrow money now because of low interest rates was "an interesting idea, but it has its risks."

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He said he would like to see more information about "the future debt we have to pay off."

Bill Rudin, the civically active real estate developer, told me Quinn's plan to create or preserve 40,000 units of permanent affordable housing through a state tax credit was "very much needed" in order to help attract top-flight employees that business owners rely on.

It was Quinn's seventh State of the City speech since becoming speaker, and the latest in a series of policy roll-outs that will make up her platform as a mayoral candidate.

She delivered a speech shortly after Hurricane Sandy about city infrastructure and emergency preparation, and spoke about her early-childhood education plan at a business breakfast recently. Today's speech focused mainly on housing and economic development.

In the audience were a handful of aides working on Quinn's campaign: Matt Tepper, the campaign manager, Michael DeLoach, an early hire and operative with ties to organized labor unions, Mark Guma, a direct-mail specialist whose wife, Maura Keaney, worked for Quinn, and Josh Isay, her political consultant.

Emily Giske, a Democratic operative and lobbyist and Quinn's longtime friend, sat in the front, right next to side door of the City Council chambers where Quinn made her entrance.

Quinn began her speech with a reference to the lawsuit the Council filed against Mayor Michael Bloomberg over his homeless-shelter admission policy for single individuals.

But the rest of her speech was sprinkled with positive examples of how she and the overwhelmingly Democratic legislative body she leads have worked with the Republican-turned-independent mayor.

In a clear reference to her Democratic primary opponents, Quinn said she has a "record not of words and criticism but of actions and results.

 

The main theme in Quinn's speech was the "squeeze on the middle class," which was the title of a report she released this morning detailing the problems facing that group: housing and child care costs and limited economic opportunity. 

 

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is one of Quinn's primary rivals and has talked about the economic divisions in New York having created "two cities," released a statement immediately after the speech faulting Quinn for her close alliance with the current mayor.

"If the next four years at City Hall are simply a continuation of the last 12, we will have failed millions of New Yorkers," he said.

Other mayoral candidates, CIty Comptroller John Liu and former city comptroller Bill Thompson, did not immediately react to the speech.