The Break-Up: A Council Alliance Dissolves

Christine Quinn and Eric Gioia used to be allies.

They both were immediately regarded as up-and-comers in the City Council, to which they were elected in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

When Ms. Quinn, who represents Chelsea, threw herself into an ultimately successful effort to succeed the term-limited Gifford Miller as Council Speaker in 2005, Mr. Gioia—who grew up and serves in Sunnyside—was among those backing her up.

These days, they’re both still going places: Ms. Quinn, now 40, seems to be getting ready for a run at the city’s top office in 2009, while Mr. Gioia, 34, is widely talked about as a prospect for Public Advocate and has become one of the top fund-raisers on the Council, with a gaudy war chest of $717,788, according to the latest records from January.

But their close relationship, it seems, is over.

The cause of their professional parting of ways is a matter of some dispute. But the results are plain to see.

Shortly after Ms. Quinn took over as Speaker early last year, 61 Council staffers were fired, including a number from the investigation committee headed by Mr. Gioia.

Under Mr. Miller—a Gioia ally who was running for Mayor at the time—Mr. Gioia’s committee regularly made news by highlighting the shortcomings of the Bloomberg administration.

Now, with Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn getting along famously, Mr. Gioia’s committee issues reports on consumer affairs issues. (Recent reports include “How Well Do You Know Your Nanny Agency?” and “Brokered Deception: The Hidden Perils of On-Line Real Estate Ads.”)

Then there’s the matter of Lisa Hernandez Gioia, Mr. Gioia’s eminently likeable spouse, who also happens to be an accomplished local fund-raiser. In 2005, she helped then-Speaker Miller raise an impressive $5.2 million for his mayoral run—an achievement that stood in stark contrast with his ability to attract actual votes. (He finished fourth among four major candidates in the Democratic primary.)

This year, with the Council Speaker once again preparing to jump into a crowded Mayoral field, Mrs. Hernandez Gioia is working for Anthony Weiner, the garrulous U.S. Representative from Brooklyn who is shaping up to be one of Ms. Quinn’s most formidable opponents.

Perhaps relatedly, Mr. Gioia himself has been spending a lot less time in the company of the Council’s leadership.

“I don’t see him at caucuses any more,” said one Council staffer. “You don’t hear him talking at stateds”—meetings of the full City Council—“you don’t see him as part of the leadership team. He’s just … not there. And I attend all the caucuses, and I can’t remember the last time I saw him at one.”

When asked about the impact that his wife’s work would have on his relationship with Ms. Quinn, Mr. Gioia said: “I love my wife dearly, and I think she’s a wonderful fund-raiser as well as, obviously, a great wife. But she’s a professional, and we’re a professional couple. It’s like two lawyers being married: Sometimes you’re not on the same side of the case.”

As for his relationship with Ms. Quinn, Mr. Gioia said, “I like Christine very much.”

Mr. Gioia dismisses the notion that he’s been sidelined by Ms. Quinn or seen his role on the Council diminish.

Certainly, his visibility is intact. Last week, he held a well-attended low-dollar fund-raiser. And that was on the same day that The New York Times featured his work in helping to open a bank near the Queensbridge Houses, the city’s largest public housing development, where he has also opened a baseball league and a soccer league, and has plans to introduce the kids there to lacrosse.

He led a protest against the genocide in Darfur that received coverage in a number of local papers—and he continues to reap public relations benefits from his annual delivery of a hardcover dictionary to every elementary-school graduate in his district.

As for his noticeable absence from the Council lately, Mr. Gioia said: “I try to spend as little time in City Hall as possible, and as much time in the neighborhood as possible. Because the truth is, I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to shape the neighborhood I grew up in, to use it as a little laboratory to find good ideas. And while I certainly hope to be serving the public for many years to come, I’ve got an opportunity now—I don’t want to think of too many years down the road when I know I can make a difference today.”

Ms. Quinn, through a spokesperson, declined to comment for this story.

The Break-Up: A Council Alliance Dissolves