In 2011, New Yorkers working on the campaign to educate the public about Christine Quinn’s record had a busy year, with more than 20 protests at her public appearances and 2013 campaign fundraisers. Before the 2009 City Council election, many people in her district told us they were planning to vote for Quinn. Once they looked at her record, however, many were just as dismayed as we were. These voters who paid closer attention are part of the reason Quinn struggled to win re-election in her own district. We believe that our campaign made a difference, and we intend to have a more profound impact in the 2013 election for Mayor. In the meantime, Quinn continues to give people new reasons to join the movement against her:
On December 2, the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center released its 2011 NYC Council report card, which grades Council members on their “record in promoting the human rights of New Yorkers” during the previous 12 months. Christine Quinn received a D+, the second to lowest score. To quote the report: “Both the political power of the Speaker and the reticence of the Council Members to challenge it are inhibiting the advancement of human rights in New York City. The power of the Speaker has delayed hearings, stalled votes and restricted the passage of legislation.”
Example: As Michael Powell wrote in the October 10, 2011 New York Times, “A year ago [City Council] members tried to push through a living wage in the Bronx and to mandate a few sick days for workers. [Christine Quinn] ensured each effort ended up baled, tied and set by the BQE for early sanitation pickup.”
Abuse of City Funds
The Speaker position concentrates an extraordinary amount of power in the hands on one person. As Speaker for the past five years, Quinn has abused that power to advance her political career at the expense of the democratic process and the public she alleges to serve.
Among the most powerful weapons in Quinn’s arsenal are the discretionary funds—tens of millions of dollars that Quinn doles out to reward campaign donors and loyal Council members and withholds from Council members who challenge her agenda. As Jason Farago wrote in a December 15 editorial in The Guardian, “Quinn is not only the most powerful legislator in the city; she’s pretty much the only legislator in the city, and from her perch she has nearly unilateral control over lawmaking. She decides what comes to the floor… and her caucus votes for it, or she makes them pay.”
Example: In March, Quinn strong-armed Council members to vote to rename the Queensboro Bridge in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch. Months later, in December, Koch endorsed Quinn for Mayor—two years before the election. A poll found that a majority of voters (64 percent) opposed renaming the bridge after Koch, and Council member Peter Vallone Jr., of Astoria, spoke out against it. Quinn responded by cutting Vallone’s discretionary funds by $600,000.
To put this political stunt in historical context, the Triboro Bridge wasn’t renamed after Robert F. Kennedy until 40 years after his assassination.
On October 4, Clyde Haberman of The New York Times observed in a piece entitled “Like Putin, Like Bloomberg” that Russia’s Prime Minister “was more scrupulous about observing the niceties of term limits than were New York’s political leaders: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his Medvedev equivalent, Christine C. Quinn….” With the help of “complaisant council members,” Haberman wrote, Bloomberg and Quinn “simply changed the law to reward themselves with third terms.”
After the 2008 slush fund fiasco destroyed her chances of becoming Mayor in 2009, Quinn needed four more years to improve her image. But her role in overturning term limits has only further damaged her reputation.
Real Estate Ties
As Kate Taylor reported in the January 5 New York Times, Quinn has already raised more than $4.9 million in campaign contributions. The vast majority of donors who have made the maximum legal contribution of $4,950 to Quinn’s campaign are real estate executives, as are many of the campaign bundlers who have raised more than $20,000. In return, Quinn advocates tirelessly for real estate developers at the expense of her constituents. As WestView readers know, Bill Rudin is planning to build 450 luxury condos on the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Quinn’s district. True to form, Quinn has publicly stated on several occasions that the Lower West Side needs a full service hospital while helping pave the way for Rudin to erect his condos. As of July 2011, seven members of the Rudin family had contributed a total of more than $30,000 to Quinn’s campaign, which may help explain why Quinn not only refused to advocate for tapping into millions of dollars in available reserve funds that might have helped save St. Vincent’s, but also refused to support a community effort to keep the St. Vincent’s site zoned for community use.
In its 2009 City Council scorecard, the NY League of Humane Voters concluded that the “biggest obstacle to more humane laws in NYC is the inexplicable opposition to animal welfare legislation by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,” who has “attacked virtually every effort in the Council to make life better for animals, despite claiming in letters to concerned citizens that she cares about animal welfare and even ‘supports animal rights.’”
Not only has Quinn killed every substantive animal protection bill introduced into the Council, but she has also fast-tracked several meaningless bills that make her look like she’s helping animals when, in reality, she’s only helping herself politically.
Example: A majority of New Yorkers support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. Quinn does not, and she has killed legislative efforts to take the carriage horses off the streets. But in an effort to make herself look as though she cares about the welfare of the horses, Quinn fast-tracked a bill in 2010 that was filled with fake reforms such as banning carriages operators from working below 34th Street, where they don’t work anyway, or between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 a.m., when no customers are out. The purpose of the bill was to grant carriage operators a rate hike, but Quinn only touted the fake reforms in the press, giving the impression that she’s an advocate for animals when she has been just the opposite. In 2011, at least seven carriage horses collapsed, tripped, spooked and died in midtown.
In January 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that makes it illegal for New Yorkers to chain their dogs outside for more than three hours. Quinn admitted that the bill is unenforceable, but she held a press conference promoting this meaningless bill, again giving New Yorkers the impression that she cares about animal welfare.
In September 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that erased a law requiring a city-funded animal shelter in every borough. She did this as a favor to Bloomberg so the City could dodge a lawsuit demanding that it fulfill this obligation. (Shelters are desperately needed in The Bronx and Queens.) Rather than being honest about the purpose of the bill, Quinn added language to it mandating increased resources for existing shelters, thereby making a step backward for animals look like a step forward.
How much of Quinn’s campaign is being funded by NYC taxpayers? In the last election, it was a fair amount. In an article in the August 20, 2009 Village Voice, Elizabeth Dwoskin reported that 31 of Quinn’s “more than 90 volunteers” were in fact paid staffers, though Quinn’s spokesperson claimed they were doing the work on their own time.
Quinn has a vast amount of taxpayer-funded city resources at her disposal for her campaign, including a chauffeured SUV. She has the support of Mayor Bloomberg, his paid consultant Ed Koch, the Democratic Establishment and the LGBT community. She has a bully pulpit as Speaker and has the Mayor inviting her to speak at high profile events. But perhaps that’s not a bad thing, because the more potential supporters are exposed to her, the more chances they have to see how much there is about her candidacy not to like.
On our side, we have the truth about Quinn’s record; a public that is becoming more informed about her; several other viable candidates for Mayor; and the will to fight to restore ethics, fairness, democracy and humanity to NYC government.
My 87 year old mother canvases our local street handing out fliers to anyone that will listen – so do I.
See you in the streets.
For more information, see Donny Moss’ documentary “Christine Quinn: Behind the Smile” on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhR3-8xK6s
This is the story of how an African King, a Greenwich Village hero, a former World Trade Center worker, a ceramics enthusiast and people who care came together.
Dusty Berke is a 9/11 hero. No she didn’t rush into the burning buildings to save people, nor did she ever work at the site, but she is an impassioned community activist.
Tiles For America was started shortly after the attack. It is an empty lot owned by the MTA (M.ass T.ransit A.authority) with a simple chain link fence around it. It is right across the street from what used to be 150 year old St. Vincent’s Hospital. (I say ‘used to be’, because greedy politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg and councilwoman Christine Quinn saw to it that after the hospital went bankrupt in 2010 – it was quickly turned into a giant condominium complex, leaving all of Greenwich Village and lower west side Manhattan without a hospital.) St. Vincent’s handled the cholera epidemic of 1849, took in the only survivors of The Titanic. It was at the center of the AIDS epidemic and took in the first survivors of the World Trade Center 9/11 attack and in 2009 cared for the passengers of ‘the miracle on the Hudson‘ – the landing of Airways flight 1549 by Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay got her middle name from the hospital.
Just hours after the attack, loved ones rushed to the hospital clutching quickly made flyers looking for their loved ones. The hope was, their loved ones would yet be found under the rubble, perhaps were passed out inside the hospital or were wandering around the city in a daze. They gathered outside the hospital and across the street at the empty lot waiting and waiting….and waiting. Volunteers came from the community with clothing, blankets, food and offers to donate blood for 2,998 victims that were never to arrive at the hospital. The anxious hours that passed turned into days which turned into weeks. The gathering place for survivors was along side this empty lot.
Local resident Lorrie Veasy who was the owner of a paint your own pottery shop called ’Our Name Is Mud’ came to the hospital with her husband to donate blood the day of the attack. Wanting to do more and to reach out and comfort those who waited and to comfort a community, she created 500 ceramic angel and flag tiles and attached them to the fence. Customers came to the shop to make tiles of their own. ‘Texas loves you!‘, ‘We will never forget’, ‘God bless the USA’, ‘In loving memory of…‘. Videos of the tiles made it onto the internet and soon school children and people of all ages from around the world started to send their own hand painted tiles to the store to be put onto the fence. Germany, Spain, England, Israel. From Maine to Alaska tiles arrived and created a place of hope and comfort. For eleven years the tiles became a tourist destination. A place of pride in the community. A place to remember and never forget.
‘Our Name Is Mud’ sadly went out of business, but right around the corner, lives Dusty Berke, a long time Greenwich Village resident who was and is determined to preserve the tiles memorial. ‘The Tiles For America Preservation Society’ was founded by her. In 2011, the ten year anniversary of 9/11, hurricane Irene threatened to devastate lower Manhattan and possibly the tiles. Dusty quickly gathered a group of scrappy volunteers who within hours took down all the tiles and brought them to safety. When all was clear they were lovingly re-hung on the fence.
In the meantime . . . in 2010, the MTA was planning to construct an air shaft on the lot and that plan came to reality early this year. The tiles? They were to be ‘put in storage’ in Albany. The community’s faith in that idea was nonexistent, especially to Dusty Berke. Along with local residents Paul McClure, Andretti Mullens and friends, a call went out on the street and the internet.
As a local tour guide, I pass by this lot every week and could not believe my eyes, nor contain my anger when I saw posted signs pleading to help save New York’s first 9/11 memorial. You see, in 1983 I got a job at The World Trade Center as a space planner at the design firm Dancker & Sellew. We worked in the clouds on the 102nd floor. At the time I lived in Brooklyn Heights and would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge every morning towards the two shimmering towers. The view from the top was breathtaking. In stormy weather the building swayed to and fro. We would hang magic markers from the ceiling and watch them make the same pattern on the paper on our desks over and over again. It was surreal. Wonderfully surreal and I was so, so proud to work there. To my luck, our lease was up several years later and the company relocated elsewhere downtown. The thought of these tiles also coming down was incomprehensible to me. On a rainy August 14th I joined Dusty and her friends and we gathered on the sidewalk and determinedly asked anyone who passed by to sign a petition to save the tiles. The mood was optimistic. But eventually the word was out the demolition crews were coming and September 11, 2012 was to be the last day of the tiles thanks to the callousness of our politicians. As a born and raised New Yorker and as a photographer, I made it a mission to photograph all of the tiles. A memorial concert was held on September 11th. The next morning we waited and waited and waited. When were the bulldozers due?
Dusty and Andretti were busy buying packing materials to rescue the tiles. The fence may belong to the city, but the tiles – belong to the citizens of the world. Every day I contacted Dusty, ‘call me when you’re taking down the tiles!’. Wednesday September 12th passed, I took some more pictures. Thursday September 13th I showed up, no one was there. Word was the demolition was to take place Monday, September 17th. On September 14th, I assist mom in taking our dog to the vet. I received a phone call.
It was ‘Ladi’, His Royal Highness James Burehmo, to be exact . . . King James Oladipo Aroko-Ola Burehmo the Oba of Idera in Nigeria. A true African king. He leaves his village as king, and comes to New York every summer as a Gray Line tour bus driver to earn money for his people. When I worked for Gray Line as a tour guide, Ladi and I became fast buddies and dear friends. Ladi, a gentle giant, always has a smile on his face. His voice instantly elicits joy and confidence. We have stayed in touch ever since. ‘Hans, I just passed by the tiles and they are boxing them up!’. My mother saw the look on my face, and she simply said ‘go’.
As I arrived, the last of the tiles were being taken down. Word had come a short time earlier that councilwoman Christine Quinn’s office had said they were taking ownership of the tiles, possibly threatening arrests. There was no time for Dusty or Andretti to do a phone or email blast. They rushed to the site, with many sets of pliers and boxes and hurriedly took down as many as they possibly could and asked any passerby to help. As the last of the tiles were coming down I arrived. Eleven years later and the fence was almost bare, the visual history temporarily erased for now. I looked up at the shell of what was St. Vincent’s Hospital and teared up as I saw the tiles being wrapped up. I photographed the moment as quickly as I could, upset I couldn’t be there right away, but time was of the essence. Passers by stopped in their tracks as what had become a routine sight, was now gone.
The tiles will live on, in respect to the 2,998 victims, the survivors, the community and those loving hearts and hands that painted the heartfelt messages on little square pieces of ceramic. The goal is to open a museum in an empty storefront across the street. It will be nice if the city and or construction workers will give us the rusty fence they are going to trash anyway. We hope to line the wall of the museum with that rusty chain link fence and hang the tiles once more. A memorial of survival, of determination and of love. As the sun set the last heart-shaped tile was packed up, the boxes closed in hopes of opening one day soon at the planning of the museum. The tiles are safe now, we are determined.
This is how an African King, a Greenwich Village hero, a former World Trade Center worker, a ceramics enthusiast and people who care came together, to save a piece of American history.
HELP SAVE TILES FOR AMERICA:
After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, ceramic studios around the world joined together to offer a creative outlet to the people of our nation. Thousands of tiles, reflecting patriotism, heroes, courage, unity, poetry, and other positive themes arrived in NYC. The “artists” are represented worldwide and have been families, children, schools, churches, scouts, and senior groups. Each tile reflects the artists’ thoughts of sadness and hope in the face of this American tragedy and once again, shows that the American people will pull together in times of national disaster. New York’s first memorial is located on a chain link fence at the corner of 7th Avenue and 11th Street.
Now the city want to tear it down. On 9/12/12, all of this will disappear, to make way for an MTA air vent for the Subway. To honor this amazing corner of our world, A.rtists W.ho C.are, is seeking volunteers, now, during, after, this event:
THE PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL CONCERT A COMMUNITY GET-TOGETHER, FOR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS YOUNG AND OLD CONCERT, FOOD, DRINK, AND DANCING UNDER THE STARS
TO PAY TRIBUTE to THE TILES FOR AMERICA AND THE LOVE BENCH SEPTEMBER 11TH, 2012 5 PM-9 PM PS 41’S BACK SCHOOL YARD CORNER OF GREENWICH AND 10TH STREET THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE BEFORE THE CITY TAKES THE TILES DOWN, AND THE LOVE BENCH GOES AWAY
Beloved musician and New Yawker CYNDI LAUPER will be our guest!