Christine Quinn’s started her 48-minute State of the City speech by dedicating more than four minutes to introducing other elected officials and notable guests.
The economic crisis in the city was, of course, the thrust of Quinn’s address, and she spoke strongly about the importance of maintaining quality of life, and warned against letting city services slip back to the state they were in in the 1970s.
“We may be in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis in decades,” she said. “But New Yorkers know better than anyone that no crisis has ever stopped our city from moving forward.”
Quinn has spent much of her time as Council speaker as an ally of Michael Bloomberg, but in today’s speech—written by spokesman Anthony Hogrebe—she offered a few variations from Bloomberg’s plan for closing the city’s multibillion-dollar budget gap, namely resisting his push to raise the sales tax and calling for an increase on income taxes for those making $300,000 or more.
Quinn said that if the millionaire’s tax, which Sheldon Silver has recently been talking up, is implemented, “96 percent of city taxpayers won’t see any increase [in taxes] at all.” For dramatic effect, she added, “It’s shameful—Bernie Madoff pays the exact same tax rate as a public school principal.”
Quinn also proposed eliminating income taxes on those making $45,000 per year or less, which she said will save those workers $320. “Those hit hardest by the economic crunch deserve some assistance,” she said.
Quinn did not offer a position on one of the mayor’s most controversial proposals—forcing unions to contribute 10 percent of their health care costs. Her only reference to the issue was a brief passage in which she said the city needs “labor unions to play their part. It will take tough choices.”
Quinn also proposed money-saving measures, specifically combining the three city agencies that deal with payroll, administrative services and public records. She said she wants to cut money from the advertising budgets dedicated to recruiting for city jobs. To raise revenue, Quinn said she and the mayor will unveil a new Web domain, “.nyc.” The city will sell the right to use the domain to businesses looking to emphasize their New York City location.
Quinn predicted that the nyc domain would “generate millions of dollars a year.”
Among the most ambtious ideas Quinn proposed was a plan to convert unsold luxury housing units into affordable homes for lower-income earners.
“Thousands of those homes never sold, left like tarnished trophies of the building boom,” said Quinn, who was a housing advocate before she was elected to the Council in 2001. “These vacant apartments now represent our best asset in the fight for affordable housing.”
Quinn said the city will negotiate with developers for “the lowest possible price” to help get people to rent or buy them. “Using existing funds we’ll add thousands of new affordable homes.”