“She’s a tough lady to get a hold of,” says Linda, a clerk in her office. After weaving through the tangled web of her staff – multiple front-desk clerks, her scheduler, and her communications director – I finally caught up with City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. She’s busy, and rightfully so – after all, in 2007, Quinn, age 43, was named the third-most powerful woman in New York, after Hillary Clinton and Diane Sawyer. Gotham Magazine also rated her one of the “Forty Under Forty”.
Despite Quinn’s ongoing accomplishments and packed agenda, she made ample time for me in a way that allows her to be accessible to her supporters – through email. “This is how she communicates best with people,” says her communications director, Jamie McShane, adding “she’s busy – she’ll be on the phone, writing an email, and signing documents all at once.”
I asked Quinn a range of questions, including some that would shine some light on her background. She left her hometown of Glen Cove, NY to attend Trinity College in Connecticut. Since 1999, she has made it her mission to respond to the needs of New Yorkers one issue at a time, serving as the representative for the 3rd Council District of Manhattan. Her constituency is Manhattan’s West Side, where she lives with her partner, Kim, in Chelsea. Quinn, as part of her politically liberal persona, has emerged as the first openly gay Speaker of the City Council.
The neighborhoods she represents are Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen, and certain parts of SoHo and Murray Hill. “District 3 constituents are incredibly involved members of their diverse communities. Ranging from store owners to community activists to young professionals and so much more, my constituents are engaged, vocal, and tremendously civic-minded,” says Quinn in an email, adding, “Working together, we continue to find responsible and effective solutions to their everyday problems and concerns.”
Since 2006, she has dedicated her career mostly to issues in the public realm, ranging from environment, education, and civil rights, among others. Her list of organizations and amount of implemented public programs are matched by the outreach efforts she makes to enhance public policy.
For instance, Quinn organized a Middle School Task Force in which seeks to improve middle school success in New York City. She worked with the administration to raise five million dollars in grants to families with the highest needs. Her office says this has resulted in an increase in test scores, higher than the citywide average.
In claiming that housing directly affects every New Yorker, she’s recently announced the Affordable Housing Recovery Program, which she hopes will make it affordable for middle income New Yorkers to buy or rent condos.
The Speaker is not simply a political figure regurgitating facts and dispensing policies. Acting as the leading voice in the struggle to legalize gay marriage in New York, demonstrates Quinn’s personal and political search for justice and equality.
“We see doctors and lawyers, police officers and firefighters, politicians and stockbrokers, teachers and social workers, people in every field and from every walk of life. We are no longer seen first and only as LGBT, but evaluated like anyone else based on our strengths and weaknesses, our accomplishments and our goals,” Quinn said in a speech at the Empire State Pride Agenda meeting in May 2007.
“There is a broad array of important issues facing District 3,” says Quinn in our email exchange. “This includes protecting and supporting small businesses, creating more seats for pre-kindergarteners, encouraging responsible development, and creating more affordable housing options.”
Christine Quinn doesn’t stop here. Speaker Quinn plans to continue acting on the concerns of her constituents, throughout and beyond her term as City Council Speaker.