Quinn’s State of the City Speech Highlights Differences with Bloomberg

Sarah Laskow | February 15th, 2011

Speaker Christine Quinn

In her state of the city address Tuesday, Speaker Christine Quinn focused on the everyday problems that plague normal people: avoiding parking tickets, finding affordable housing, navigating city bureaucracy.

“There’s an important lesson here — government only succeeds when we serve as a microphone for the voice of the people,” she said. “And when we look outside the confines of City Hall — to the places where New Yorkers live and work — and bring City Hall to them. When we pay attention to what New Yorkers need, and work with them to solve their problems.”

Quinn had to wait her turn to give her take on the current state of New York City and how she was planning to improve it. Only after the president, governor, and mayor parsed the state of the country, state, and city did Quinn get a chance to weigh in. If all goes well for her, though, in just a few years, she won’t be last in line, but will have jumped one step up, to the mayoralty.

But to get there, Quinn has to navigate between her liberal base and the more conservative electorate that vaulted Bloomberg into office three times. Sometimes she leans towards the mayor’s positions on key issues, as she did when she put aside a paid sick leave bill in 2010. In this speech, however, she staked out her own ground, gesturing towards pension reform — a priority for Bloomberg, but a sticky point for labor groups — and offering a different plan for reigning in the city’s capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects.

In her speech, Quinn came off as a different type of New Yorker than the mayor, a local booster whose heart is in the city and in the success of its people.  Both Bloomberg and Quinn highlighted the tech boomlet in New York, but where Bloomberg used it as a spring board to national issues — leaping from Foursquare to immigration — Quinn focused inward, moving from Foursquare to meet-ups and networking sessions for college students.

And while Bloomberg mentioned in passing that New York had overtaken Boston as an incubator for tech companies and was now second only to Silicon Valley on that measure, Quinn announced the same fact, with glee, by pointing out that New York’s new rank meant that “Boston has been knocked down to number three.”

Quinn also spoke at length about affordable housing, which Bloomberg mentioned only once in his speech. In Bloomberg’s vision of the city, affordable housing has a place in new developments: He mentioned it in connection with a project at Willets Point “that will give rise to whole new neighborhoods.” The mayor also mentioned a new development at Hunters Point South, this one intended for the middle class.

Quinn, however, promised to work on maintaining the supply of affordable housing already in place.

“We can’t keep New York City a place that is growing and diverse if people of every income can’t find an affordable place to live,” she said. That’s a very different picture of New York than the current mayor projects.