Quinn Crystallizes Choice For Mayor As Contest Between Leadership And Talk

In a major address at the East Harlem Center for Asthma today, Christine Quinn framed the choice before New Yorkers in this year’s mayor’s race as a contest between results and rhetoric and leadership versus pandering. Quinn pointed out that the recent debate over the 91st Street Transfer Station was indicative of the larger dynamics of the race, where one candidate makes hard decisions, delivers actual results, and is willing to pay a political cost, while others offer rhetoric, lack a record of delivering, and pander to special interests.

With less than three months until Primary Day, Quinn made the case that her ideas and vision for New York aren't just talking points, they are backed up by real results for real people and rooted in the desire to see New York's middle class grow and prosper.

“Talk is cheap. Voters will decide based on actions,” Quinn said this morning.  “The greatest indication of what someone will be able to achieve can be found in what they’ve already accomplished.  The record speaks for itself.”

On issue after issue, whether it was affordable housing, education, budgeting and contract negotiations, or jobs, Quinn laid out her ideas and vision as mayor of New York and pointed to an actual record, in each area, demonstrating her ability to actually deliver results for real people. She compared her record of delivering for middle and working class New Yorkers to the lack of record of her opponents, making the case the press stunts, four-year old policy booklets, and pandering to local audiences are not an indication of leadership.

“This election is not about who can get the most press, or give the most pithy sound bite.  It’s not about who can yell the loudest or be the most critical,” she continued. “This election is about who has the ability to lead our city – to help the middle class that so desperately wants to continue to raise their families here or grow old here - to feel safe here, to afford to live here.  It’s about who understands the problems of the middle class and has the know-how, the energy, the toughness, the vision and the compassion to make a difference and know who you are fighting for.”

A full copy of Quinn’s speech can be found below:


June 17, 2013

Leadership vs. Talk 

Next month will mark exactly seven years from when my colleagues and I approved a new solid waste management plan for New York City.  It’s a plan that for the first time in history said every borough has to take responsibility for its own garbage.  

When fully implemented, our trash plan will take 6 million truck miles off of New York City’s roads every year.  Right now many of those trucks drive through this neighborhood, East Harlem, on their way to incinerators and landfills all over the country.  And all the exhaust fumes from all of those trucks contribute to criminally high asthma rates - some of the highest in the country.

To pass the trash plan I needed to overcome decades of entrenched political interests.  I did it by building consensus, by working with my colleagues and with community members to make the plan even stronger, and making sure every voice was heard.  I did it by taking a stand, refusing to budge on important pieces that could have made the whole plan fall apart, and by leading with compassion, knowing that too many kids, in too many parts of New York, were suffering because everyone wasn’t doing their fair share.

And I did it by doing something no previous Speaker was willing to do - I agreed to a waste transfer station in my own district.  Even though it would cost me some votes and make some people unhappy.  Because I knew I couldn’t look at other neighborhoods and tell them they needed to do their part if my neighborhood wasn’t willing to do ours.

Our solid waste plan also included a transfer station at East 91st Street.  And almost immediately after we passed the plan, a small number of residents on the Upper East Side filed a lawsuit, saying that the City hadn’t done the necessary environmental review.  They went to court.  And they lost. 

So they filed another lawsuit, this time saying that the city was going to be taking park land away from the community.  Again they went to court.  And again they lost. 

Next they sued saying that the city didn’t have the right permits from the Army Corp of Engineers.  And they lost.

So they sued over a different kind of environmental review, and they lost again.  Now they’re bringing a rehash of the old lawsuits to federal court.  And what’s the result?

It’s been seven years, and that waste transfer station still hasn’t been built.  It’s been seven years, and the solid waste management plan as a whole has still not taken effect.  It’s been seven years, and children here in East Harlem, and in Brooklyn and the South Bronx are still waiting for relief.

Because when we say “not in my back yard” that just means “dump this in someone else’s backyard.”  That’s not what we do as New Yorkers. That’s not what made our city the envy of the world.  I believe the strength of our city is that we understand we are all in this fight together. The strength of our city is that 8 million people pursue our common interests, not our self-interest.  The strength of our city is that we embrace our differences and diversity like no other place. That’s who we are, and it’s a belief I will bring to this job every day.  

That’s why time and time again, throughout this campaign, I’ve reaffirmed my commitment to the solid waste plan, including the East 91st Street facility.  That meant facing protesters on the Upper East Side. It meant getting booed at the 92nd Street Y – a sentence I never thought I’d utter.  But that’s the price of leadership.

And it’s a price some are unwilling to pay.  Some of my opponents in this race continue to pander to residents of the Upper East Side -- or side with their lobbyist donors.  Some say they would take 91st street out of the plan altogether.  Even though doing so would require opening up the entire plan, subjecting it to community and environmental review, requiring approval from the Council and from Albany all over again.  A process that would likely take another decade to complete.

These opponents say that the residents of East Harlem and Brooklyn and the South Bronx should continue to suffer the health consequences from decades of trash from other neighborhoods being shipped through theirs.  And other opponents have stuck their finger in the wind and eventually flip flopped their way to the right position.  Neither is leadership.

Leadership means knowing how to bring people together, and knowing when it’s time to fight.  It means doing what it takes to deliver real results, and make peoples’ lives better, regardless of the cost.  As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

There are 85 days until primary day, when New Yorkers will be faced with a decision.  Who do they want to lead our city for the next four years. 

This election is not about who can get the most press, or give the most pithy sound bite.  It’s not about who can yell the loudest or be the most critical. 

This election is about who has the ability to lead our city – to help the middle class that so desperately wants to continue to raise their families here or grow old here - to feel safe here, to afford to live here.  It’s about who understands the problems of the middle class and has the know-how, the energy, the toughness, the vision and the compassion to make a difference and know who you are fighting for. 

This is about whether a little girl growing up here in East Harlem will have a good school to go to, whether she’ll have clean air to breathe and healthy food to eat.  Whether her parents will be able to find a good job that pays a middle class salary, and an apartment they can afford.  Whether the streets will be safe enough for her to play on.

This is the task ahead of us.  Our city is headed in the right direction. We cannot roll back the clock. We need to keep moving forward.  But we need to do a better job ensuring that all New Yorkers can benefit from the gains we’ve made, that the middle class can afford to stay in this City, and that all New Yorkers can aspire to part of our middle class.

And we’re not going to do that with talk and bluster.  We’re not going to do it with press conferences and empty promises. We’re not going to do it with politics as usual. 

I offer something else:  the toughness to lead. Comprehensive solutions to complicated problems – not 4 year old position papers dusted off for a comeback attempt.  The energy and the know how to get real results. And the heart and compassion to know who I am fighting for.

Some people say I'm too pro business. Some say I'm too pro labor. Some people say I'm too liberal. Others say I'm too centrist. Some say I'm too close to Mayor Bloomberg. Others say we're not close enough.

Here's what I say: I do what I think is right. I do what I think is best for New York. That's it. I don't worry about labels. I don't worry about fitting into a narrative. I'm not concerned with making it easy to describe me in 140 characters or less. I just focus on delivering results. And no one in this race has as strong a record of delivering those results as I have.

If you want a candidate who lobs criticism on the steps of City Hall or on the floor of Congress, I’m not your gal.  I would rather roll up my sleeves than point my fingers -- because that’s how progress is made. 

It's what I've always done. And if I'm lucky enough to be Mayor, it's exactly what I'll continue to do.

Like me, my opponents have spent many years in public office. But when you look at their records, there's a great big hole where results should be. You may not agree with everything I've done, but there's never been a time in my career when I wasn't getting results for New York.

Talk is cheap.  Voters will decide based on actions.   The greatest indication of what someone will be able to achieve can be found in what they’ve already accomplished.  The record speaks for itself. 

When I say I have the experience and the toughness to deal with the budget challenges we face, New Yorkers know it’s true.  They know, because of what I’ve delivered as Speaker.

Seven on time, balanced budgets - soon to be eight.  Many of them passed during the worst fiscal times our nation has seen since the Great Depression.  Finding ways to cut more than 6 billion dollars in spending, but holding the line on the most critical services.  Not closing a single firehouse.  Not laying off a single teacher.  Making sure we had resources to keep 1,700 police officers from being taken off our streets.  

When we had budget surpluses, and many Council Members and interest groups wanted to spend that money on new programming.  Instead we did the fiscally responsible thing, paying down future debt.  It wasn’t popular at the time, but that decision helped New York City weather the recession better than any other city in America. 

Our next Mayor will have to negotiate every public worker contract in the city.  Municipal workers deserve a pay increase.  But the City's long-term fiscal situation means that in order to help pay for them, we’re going to have to revisit health care costs and other benefits.   Unless we take a hard look at all of these costs, we’ll have future obligations that we simply won’t be able to afford without huge tax hikes or severe spending cuts. 

That doesn’t mean we need to make the unions the enemy.  But it means we can’t cave in to unsustainable demands that would cost the city billions of dollars we simply don’t have.  We’re going to have to get around the table, and no one is going to get exactly what they want - because that’s what a negotiation is.  But  we can and will get to a place that protects our financial future while giving workers the pay and benefits they deserve.

New Yorkers know I’ll be able to reach that balance as Mayor, because that’s exactly what I’ve done as Speaker.  When I negotiated a deal to save the jobs of 4,100 teachers, I didn’t do it by holding press conferences or pointing fingers.  I got the teachers union and the DOE in a room, and we didn’t leave until we found a way forward.  It required both sides to give a little, and ultimately we came up with a solution that worked for students, teachers, and was fiscally responsible.

Lots of candidates in this race talk and talk about affordable housing.  But no one else has a record of actually building it.  As Speaker I helped bring thousands of new affordable apartments to the five boroughs.  I passed more pro-tenant legislation than any Speaker in city history.  Including the Safe Housing Act, a law that has led to top to bottom renovations at more than 5,000 of the worst apartments in the city.  Buildings that once had the most deplorable, disgusting conditions are now quality housing, and the slumlords were forced to pay the bill.

So when I say I have a plan to keep our city affordable to the middle class, to keep families from getting priced out of the neighborhoods they helped make great, New Yorkers know I can do it.  When I say I’ll build 40,000 new middle income affordable homes over the next ten years, it’s not just a promise in a press release - I’ve got a plan on how to pay for it.  And I’ll go to Albany and get legislation passed that will allow us for the first time to keep affordable housing permanently affordable in the five boroughs. 

As Speaker, I didn’t just criticize our schools.  I helped add 10,000 new full day pre-K seats.  I went to Albany and got legislation passed and signed to make Kindergarten mandatory in the five boroughs.  I brought people together around education - parent advocates, union leaders, and the DOE - folks who can rarely agree on anything.  They came up with concrete recommendations on how to fix our middle schools, and we found $25 million to put them into action.

So when I say I have a plan to fix our schools, New Yorkers know it’s not just talk.  I’ll take innovative techniques that have proven effective in some of our most challenging schools, and I’ll work with principals to take them systemwide.  Give every new teacher hands on mentoring from one of our city’s best teachers.  Extend learning time until 6 PM, and focus on literacy in every classroom.  Give parents a real voice, because we know that schools with high levels of family involvement are schools that perform better. 

I didn’t just talk about unemployment - I helped bring nearly 3,000 new manufacturing jobs to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the middle of a recession.  Turned abandoned industrial space in East Harlem into a home for 32 new food businesses.  Trained New Yorkers for jobs in healthcare and technology, and helped more people get on the path to a GED. 

We all know income inequality remains a problem in this city and this country.  And I didn’t just identify the problem, I did something about it.  I passed living wage and prevailing wage legislation that will put more money into the pockets of many working New Yorkers.  And I made it illegal to discriminate against the unemployed when making hiring decisions.  

So New Yorkers know I have a real plan to create jobs, to drive down unemployment rates that are still at 9%, and are even higher in communities of color.  A plan to create 2,000 new manufacturing jobs in Sunset Park.  To double the city’s exports by 2020.  To bring cleantech jobs to the South Bronx.  To turn Downtown Brooklyn into the third point in a thriving tech triangle.  To reform our broken workforce system so that New Yorkers have the skills they need to get the jobs we create, and to attract new employers and growing industries.

A record of results, and a vision for the future.  That’s what I’ve been out here talking about for the last six months, and it’s what I’ll be talking about all the way to November. 

That’s what we need from the next mayor.  Not just empty promises, silly press stunts, or nonstop criticism, but a real plan on how to deliver for New Yorkers. 

You know, my wife Kim and I are huge Bruce Springsteen fans.  And I think about something Jon Stewart said while honoring Bruce at the Kennedy Center last year.  He said “Whenever I see Bruce Springsteen do anything, he empties his tank every time.”

Anyone who’s ever been to a Bruce concert will tell you he doesn’t hold anything back.  He leaves everything on stage, gives everything he has to give.

That’s what I hope can be said about me as Speaker.  It’s something I’ve worked every day to make true.  When I’m done, I want people to be able to say, she gave everything she had.  She fought for every dollar for our schools and our families, created every job she could, built every unit of affordable housing she could, passed every good piece of legislation. 

And if I’m lucky enough to become our next Mayor, that’s how I’ll spend every day.  Delivering results for New Yorkers.  Holding nothing back.  Emptying my tank.

Because that’s what the people of New York do every day.  Working two jobs to put food on the table.  Putting themselves through school at night to make a better life for their families.  Volunteering in their communities.  Starting a small business and creating jobs for their neighbors. 

New Yorkers work every moment of every day to get things done.  They deserve no less from their Mayor.  That’s why I’m running.  That’s what this election is about.  And I hope to spend every day of the next four years, not just making promises, not just holding press conferences, but delivering for those New Yorkers, working with them side by side, to make our great city even greater.