Volume 22, Number 21 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 2 - 8, 2009
Some advice for Quinn
While City Council Speaker Christine Quinn unsurprisingly won the Democratic primary race on Sept. 15,
her less-than-impressive margin of victory over two first-time candidates hinted at a growing discontent among voters in the Third Council District.
Her constituents, seeing Quinn as the most qualified for the job, rightly delivered her 52 percent of the vote. But the win came against two previously little-known challengers who managed to convince many of Quinn’s formerly faithful voters that her decade in office lasted about a year too long.
Many lessons can be taken from this outcome, the first being that Quinn must now prove herself an unyielding ally to the district despite possible higher political aspirations.
To be clear, Quinn’s alignment with Mayor Mike Bloomberg — which amounts to either a boon or a betrayal of the district, depending on whom you ask — must never stand in the way of her obligations to the community.
Many voters in the highly progressive district loudly expressed their opposition to Quinn’s push to overturn term limits last year, and their displeasure will not and should not be forgotten. If members of Quinn’s own home political club, the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, began expressing concerns about the direction she seemed to be taking, then certainly the community at large must be feeling some deep misgivings in relation to the speaker.
In no uncertain terms, we opposed the legislative overturning of term limits, though we do support extending them to three terms, but only if done by a voter referendum. Should she be re-elected in November’s general election (which would seem likely in the heavily Democratic district), we hope to see Quinn stake out more independent positions so that the Council can remain a bona fide check on the executive in city government’s system of checks and balances. Again, we also support a full investigation of the Council’s “slush fund” scandal and are eager to see the results as soon as possible — whatever the ramifications for Quinn.
Some of the speaker’s positions — or lack thereof — regarding major development in the district need to be either re-evaluated or solidified in her third term. For starters, Quinn can definitely improve by ensuring that the three-district Department of Sanitation garage planned for Hudson Square is only built to house two districts, alleviating the burden unfairly placed on that community. This is an issue where Quinn shouldn’t merely act as an enabler of the mayor, but take a more forceful role in the negotiations to find a workable and fair solution.
Quinn also needs to take a more active role in the redevelopment of the Hudson Yards, a megaproject that the Bloomberg administration has pursued vigorously. For example, we would like to see her out stumping with Friends of the High Line to preserve the elevated park’s northernmost portion, and attending smaller block association meetings to gauge the direct effects this project poses to the neighborhood.
As speaker, if Quinn continues to hold up a proposed measure to regulate commercial rents across the city — a bill she believes may not pass legal muster despite its having enough Council votes — she then needs to foster more far-reaching solutions to address the threats posed to small businesses beyond the minor initiatives she has introduced so far.
To Quinn’s primary challengers, Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannante-Derr, we wish them the best in their continued advocacy and activism. We urge Kurland to reconsider her reluctance to join the local community board, since community boards represent a vital component of local government and local activism and have been a launching pad for many careers in politics.