Although Council Speaker Christine Quinn has largely avoided tearing into her electoral opponents as she campaigns for mayor this year, the same can’t be said for everyone in her legislative chamber. Councilman James Gennaro, notably, has repeatedly and aggressively attacked her rivals on a wide range of issues, earning a reputation as a reliable “attack dog” for her campaign.
The list of examples is long. Mr. Gennaro accused Public Advocate Bill de Blasio of being on a “quest for relevance” during the paid sick day debate. He hit Mr. de Blasio again for his call to end horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. On the environmental front, Mr. Gennaro, the chair of the Council’s environmental protection committee, called Mr. de Blasio and another Gracie Mansion hopeful, Comptroller John Liu, “panderers” for opposing the construction of a waste transfer station on the Upper East Side. “I applaud Speaker Quinn for facing the critics,” he added.
And, while almost none of the mayoral candidates, including Ms. Quinn, are willing to go directly after former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his two-year-old sexting scandal, the same can’t be said of Mr. Gennaro. The Queens councilman blasted out a 824-word statement saying Mr. Weiner’s high-profile candidacy will amount to “nothing more than a most unfortunate distraction in this important mayoral campaign.”
(Mr. Gennaro can play defense too; after The New York Times published a front-page profile critical of Ms. Quinn’s temper, he wrote a letter to the paper stating he had “no idea what the article is talking about.”)
“All those statements really do speak for themselves,” Paul Leonard, a spokesman for Mr. Gennaro, insisted. “As far as a very, very personal conviction about Anthony Weiner’s conduct and his entrance in the mayor’s race, these have all been really long-standing issues for him … In terms of the mayor’s race, Jim has not made an endorsement and has not been asked to make an endorsement.”
A term-limited member who has represented portions of central and eastern Queens since 2002, Mr. Gennaro is widely known as a close Quinn ally. Although she has already been endorsed by Council lawmakers like Domenic Recchia, Diana Reyna and Julissa Ferreras, no one has stepped forward as aggressively as Mr. Gennaro.
Why has Mr. Gennaro been so bold? One Queens Democratic source, who said he was familiar with Mr. Gennaro’s plans, said the councilman is interested in landing a plum job in a future-Mayor Quinn’s administration.
“Jim is term-limited and because of that, he’s saying, ‘What the hell am I’m doing next year?’ And I think if Jim was offered a job in new administration of Christine Quinn, he would love that,” the Queens Democrat said. “He has a great environmental background, he could maybe be [Department of Environmental Protection] commissioner or a deputy commissioner candidate. I think he’s becoming a little bit of an attack dog for Chris and he figures he has nothing to lose, everything to gain.”
For his part, Mr. Gennaro’s spokesman did not outright reject the notion that Mr. Gennaro was angling for future employment in City Hall.
“People are going to infer what they’re going to infer from the statements he’s put in there,” he explained, “that’s not something that we can control.”
Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.