Christine Quinn is the current Speaker of the New York City Council, one of the most powerful positions in city government after the Mayor. Quinn is the first female and first openly gay person to serve as speaker, which is a position that was created in 1990 as result of a revision in the city charter. Quinn was elected to the city council in 1999. After serving on the city council for almost seven years, she was elected city council speaker in January 2006. Quinn entered politics to manage the city council campaign of Thomas Duane in 1991, after which she served as Duane's Chief of Staff for five years. Quinn later became the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and was appointed a member of the NYC Police/Community Relations Task Force by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Question: How does New York City balance its need for Wall Street tax dollars with its left-leaning, working class citizens?
Christine Quinn: Well, you know, the truth is, we are very reliant on Wall Street. About 25% of our tax revenues come from Wall Street, which is far too high a percentage for any one industry—nonetheless an industry that’s as volatile as Wall Street. So we’ve tried to focus in the Council on the issue of diversifying the city’s economy because we don’t want to be overly reliant on any one part of the economic world at all.
So we’ve tried to focus on ways where we could create jobs in other sectors of New York City. How do we look at the assets and resources that New York has and turn those into job engines. So for example, what’s one thing that New York City is totally known for? Food. Every other person you meet has a dream of creating a restaurant, a catering company, the next great cupcake. So we are right now taking an old warehouse in East Harlem and converting it to an industrial kitchen, a place that will help and allow probably 40 or 50 start up food companies a year to be born, put people to work and get out there and support themselves. That will help diversify our economic basis. So from a political or any context, we’re not going to be so reliant on Wall Street and no one particular sector.
We’ve also tried to diversify by helping the biotech sector grow in New York City and actually passed a biotech tax credit a couple of years ago to try to draw those companies here.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler