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Quinn Builds On State Of The City Proposals At On/Off Record Breakfast
City Hall News
Jon Lentz

February 17, 2011
View the Original Article

Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined City Hall for an On/Off the Record breakfast on Wednesday to expand on many of the proposals from her State of the City address—but steered clear of details on several issues that were left out of her annual speech.

Quinn referred often to her pride in how the Council under her leadership has successfully dealt with the budget—unlike other legislative bodies, Quinn pointed out, the New York City Council put money away during the fatter years of the economy, rather than spending every dime available. And she stood by her refusal, announced in her speech on Tuesday, to concede to the Bloomberg administration’s proposed 20 percent capital cut. Instead, she pressed for her proposal to pay more capital costs up front as a way of bringing down costs for debt service in the long term.

Asked whether she feared paying higher costs up front could lead to a slowdown in infrastructure and other construction, Quinn said no.

“The thing that will dampen infrastructure projects is cutting the capital budget by 20 percent,” she said.

But she expressed confidence that her own proposals to introduce a database of all city affordable housing units and build up NYC Business Link, which would streamline the permit and application process for small businesses and entrepreneurs, would not require significant capital expenditures to get off the ground.

The NYC Business Link was designed not to cost money, she said, and the city would use its current resources more efficiently. For the new affordable housing database, she said the list of affordable housing could cheaply be merged with online systems. She said all of the digitizing work could be done by city agencies, without major costs or outside contracts.

“There’s really no significant expense there at all,” Quinn said. “It just has to be developed.”

Quinn said she expects to hold a long-delayed hearing on a living wage bill, though she declined to set a time frame on when it might be taken up.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the bill,” Quinn said at the breakfast. “You know, it’s been introduced, it has a lot of support. I assume we’ll have a hearing at the appropriate time.”

Quinn declined to say whether now might the right time for the bill, which would mandate the $10-per-hour living wage for workers on city projects that would grow in line with inflation.

“We’re still looking at it,” said Quinn. “The lead sponsor, Oliver Koppell, has made clear that he wants a hearing on the bill. That’s fair to have a hearing as the paid sick leave bill did, and I’ll make my position known at the appropriate time.”

The delay in taking up the living wage bill, which has widespread support on the City Council but is bitterly opposed by the city’s business groups, contrasted with Quinn’s continued denunciation of Wal-Mart and the company’s efforts to open a store in the city. Quinn characterized Wal-Mart as a “job killer.”

“I really fear that if a Wal-Mart opens in the city of New York, it will cause small businesses to close,” Quinn said.

She accused the world’s biggest retailer of not being upfront about efforts to find a location for a store in New York. A recent meeting she had with Wal-Mart representatives was productive, she said, but nothing the company presented was significant enough to persuade her to change her stance.

As for her own future, Quinn shot down any suggestions that she was preparing for a run for mayor in 2013, and downplayed implications that the city balance of power had shifted in recent months.

Quinn said it was simply her role to address concerns about the Bloomberg administration’s widely criticized response to the blizzard in late December, though she noted that she also praised the mayor for his successful cleanup after the second blizzard to hit the city.

“Given the significance of the issues that you deal with, if you’re in the City Council or if you’re the mayor or an elected official, there really is neither the time nor the luxury to sit around and map them out on some massive political playboard with X’s and O’s like it’s the Super Bowl,” Quinn said.