City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is facing opposition from a surprising quarter as she seeks the mayor’s office — gay men who charge the out lesbian has abandoned her progressive roots for political deal-making that advances her career and harms New York City.
“She has turned her back on everything she stood for,” said Louis Flores, who blogs on christine-quinn-sold-out.blogspot.com and has joined protests at Quinn fundraisers and appearances.
Quinn, who represents Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and the West Village, was first elected to the Council in 1999 and was elected speaker in 2006. Prior to joining the Council, Quinn was the executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and chief of staff for Thomas Duane, an openly gay man who represented the same Council district for two terms.
At AVP and in her earlier work as a housing activist, Quinn was more aggressive, more devoted to a single cause, and less likely to compromise to achieve success.
As speaker, Quinn has heralded the annual city budgets she has brokered with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She has supported the police department and made deals with real estate interests. But where Quinn sees reasonable compromises that maintain city services, create jobs, or keep taxpayers safe, others see betrayal of core principles.
“It’s her consistent record of violating the public trust,” said Donny Moss, who runs votequinnout.com and the “Defeat Christine Quinn” Facebook page. “She doesn’t listen to her constituents.”
Moss points to Quinn’s support for the expansion of Chelsea Market and New York University, the conversion of St. Vincent’s Hospital to condos, and the creation of a large Department of Sanitation waste transfer facility in the West Village as examples of Quinn running roughshod over her district.
Quinn has riled other gay activists by supporting ID scanners for city nightclubs and bars and backing a police department regulation that requires a permit for assemblies of 50 people or more. Housing Works, an AIDS group, locked horns with Quinn over a city bill that would have given people with HIV, even those without an AIDS diagnosis, access to city housing benefits.
Quinn’s 2008 support for altering the city term limits law to allow the mayor, City Council members, and other elected officials to serve three four-year terms instead of two had queer politicos who usually praise the speaker chastising her.
The scope of any anti-Quinn feelings among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters today is unknown. Moss and Flores may be the tip of an iceberg. In a surprisingly weak performance in her 2009 Democratic primary, Quinn faced Yetta Kurland, a lesbian, and Maria Passannante-Derr. Quinn’s opponents combined to win 47 percent of the vote.
The two gay men could also be a “fringe” element, as Quinn surrogates have called them in press reports.
Moss, who has “several hundred” people on an email list and nearly 1,100 likes on his Facebook page, does voter outreach at subway stops and Quinn events about three times a week and Flores sometimes attends. They get a “mixed reaction” from the public. They have been insulted or called “homophobes,” and they have been thanked by passersby. They attribute the negative reactions to voters not knowing Quinn’s record.
“That’s why we’re getting that mixed reaction because some of those voters are not informed,” Flores said.
Some gay voters are more interested in solidarity and making “judgments based on [Quinn’s] identity,” Moss said. He also hears from voters who cannot or do not wish to publicly oppose Quinn.
“One of the challenges we face is that people who are most affected by her are afraid to speak out,” Moss said.
Both men have been roughed up by police during their Quinn protests and put videos of that on YouTube.
“That’s why we have to ask which side is Christine Quinn on?” Flores said during a joint interview. Moss quickly added, “The police are on her side... She should be supporting free speech.”
Flores contrasted Quinn’s time at AVP to her time as speaker. Queer youth of color are among those who endure stop and frisk, a tactic that the police say aids in keeping crime down. Quinn has said she backs the continued use of the tactic, but with changes and more supervision. Proposals to codify such changes have not yet received Council action.
“If Christine Quinn was the head of AVP today, she would be fighting that,” Flores said. In his view, Quinn has become what the city’s reform movement once fought.
“Her strategy is to reward the district leaders and the county leaders all around this city,” Flores said. “She has become a political boss, which violates everything progressives stand for... We’re trying to fight for something better, a better government.”
The Quinn campaign declined to comment.