The New Yorker's woefully lacking profile of NYC mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn

Press Criticism | By Craig Gurian |

Quinn, though, is very responsive. One illustration concerns a subject about which I have direct experience. The coop application process in New York has no transparency whatsoever. A family who has found a new home, has gotten the owner to agree to sell the apartment, and has gotten a bank to finance the purchase, still has to run the gauntlet of coop board approval. And if that approval is withheld, every coop (per industry guidance) refuses to tell the applicants why they have been rejected.

The overriding of existing term limits wasn’t a mysterious result, it was a decision by Quinn to ride roughshod over the will of City voters and extend not only the Mayor’s permissible time in office, but also the time that she and her colleagues could serve.

In short, the process is one of the last bastions of privilege and unaccountability. Many years ago, I drafted legislation that would have required prompt disclosure of the reasons for rejection. The bill was reintroduced in 2006, and garnered widespread support — at one point having the support of more than two-thirds of Council Members. But transparency has its enemies, and the Real Estate Board of New York and the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums were fierce opponents. They and their hired guns launched a campaign of disinformation and fear. And Chris Quinn? She had pledged to support this kind of legislation when running for re-election to her Council seat in 2005, but she went back on her word and parroted the anti-transparency arguments of the elite opposing a bill.

In this Council term, she had a window-dressing bill introduced — one that provides for zero required disclosure. The original bill never got a hearing, and, though reintroduced once more this Council term, it has continued to languish.

Quinn might like to talk about doing more to help those who, in Mead’s phrasing, “have been marginalized by the growing disparity between rich and poor,” but her stance against coop disclosure was service to the one percent in its most naked form.


Continuing police practices; failing to seek structural change

“Do I think Ray Kelly is a stand-up, very good police Commissioner who the city would be lucky to continue to have,” Mead quotes Quinn as asking rhetorically. “Absolutely.”

But what about the practice of the Police Department of stopping and frisking massive numbers of New Yorkers each year — primarily those who are African-American or Latino? What about the tens of thousands of arrests for marijuana possession?

Mead doesn’t ask.

Quinn, like many other politicians, is able to summon outrage at individual instances of violence — she and some of her colleagues recently donned hoodies and demanded an investigation into the death of Treyvon Martin — but has no interest in dealing with the day-to-day reality of discrimination. Under her tenure, the number of City-funded employees at the City’s Commission on Human Rights has fallen to the lowest level in modern times, lower than the lowest levels of the Giuliani administration.


Who is Quinn?

The New Yorker is not a public policy journal, I know. But I think I’m not the only one of its readers who want to know more about a politician’s substance. I didn’t need to know that Quinn “chews gum lustily.” And I really didn’t need to know that Quinn — countermanding her press secretary — did not want an incident of her stepping into a pile of dog poop placed off the record. But Mead and her editor thought that was a nice way to demonstrate just how down to earth Chris Quinn can be. And so ended the profile.


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