4:51 pm Feb. 21, 2013
First, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio complained about the city over-fining small businesses in the outer boroughs.
Then City Council Speaker announced she was passing a bill in the overwhelmingly Democratic body she oversees that would "reduce vending fines and ease the burden on New York City's street vendors."
Then Quinn's bill was criticized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, her most important political ally, who called it "one of the stupidest things I've heard."
And there, in one 30-minute sequence that unfolded within spitting distance of City Hall, was the basic plot of New York City politics heading into the mayoral election.
De Blasio, a declared mayoral candidate, was unveiling a report detailing how the city has increased the number of inspections and fines for businesses in the outer boroughs and north of 96th Street in Manhattan.
Standing in front of the City Hall steps, de Blasio called some of the fines "Kafkaesque" and said the increase in inspection visits and fines stemmed from the Bloomberg administration's "desire for revenue" without formal tax hikes.
So one restaurant was fined for having forks and knives sticking out too far over the napkin on the table, according to de Blasio.
David Moo, a business owner from Park Slope, said his friend's bar was fined for having a fork covered in wax behind the bar, even though the fork was intended solely to clean candles and food wasn't even being served there.
De Blasio called the targeting of these businesses outside Manhattan a "borough bias" and an example of "boroughism." The criticism conveniently echoed a theme he outlined when he formally kicked off his mayoral campaign late last month, which hit on two key points for any Democrat running in the primary against Quinn. The first is that Bloomberg's fiscal stewardship of the city hasn't been as good as it's cracked up to be, and has anyway been built on the backs of those who can least afford to shoulder the burden, as evidenced by growing inequality and, more precisely, by things like the punitive fining of small-business owners.
Quinn, who hasn't formally announced her mayoral candidacy, has a few immediate tools at her disposal, including an overwhelmingly Democratic City Council which regularly voices support for policies that favor small businesses and middle-class residents.
She didn't appear in public this morning, but her office released a proposal designed to head off de Blasio's assault from the left, in the form of a press release.
De Blasio, told of Quinn's press release while he was still at his press conference, said: "How convenient."
The timing, he said, smiling, was a "stunning coincidence."
And later, he said, "It speaks for itself. This is not the first time this has happened. When we have major announcements it seems to be a timing she likes to choose for announcements as well. Some people play that game."
Then Bloomberg, standing in City Hall Park with fellow billionaire T. Boone Pickens to unveil the city's first clean-energy mobile food vehicle, was asked to address Quinn's proposal, which he duly called "stupid."
Bloomberg, as it happens, had walked past de Blasio as the public advocate was about to start his press conference, and one of the reporters there joked that he should hand his report on small-business owners to the mayor directly.
He might as well have.