It’s the evening rush hour on the Upper West Side, and while a street corner saxophonist blows a familiar melody across the street, about 20 protesters are handing out “Anybody but Christine Quinn for Mayor” fliers to straphangers streaming out of the 72nd Street subway station.
The anti-Quinn contingent is led by animal rights activist Donny Moss, who first clashed with the Council speaker as early as 2007, when she did not support then Councilman Tony Avella’s proposal to ban carriage horses. Since then, Moss’ one-man crusade to stop Quinn’s mayoral bid has been picking up steam, drawing several dozen protestors to some Quinn campaign events or to informational demonstrations at such places as the voter-rich Upper West Side.
“She pumps her fists in the air at rallies and gives the impression that she’s this reformer and running this transparent government, when people that follow politics know everything happens behind closed doors,” Moss said.
Quinn spokesperson Josh Isay said everyone has a right to their own opinion and to protest, but the facts of Quinn’s record don’t back up the protesters’ words.
“She has an exceptional record on issues ranging from job creation to education to making our city a more affordable place to live,” Isay said. “In the process of getting results, you can’t make everyone happy all the time. All you can do is make the right decisions based on the merits, and that’s what Chris Quinn does.”
The fliers Moss and others distribute question Quinn’s role in taking campaign contributions from several big real estate developers, the 2008 City Council slush fund scandal and her key role in overturning term limits three years ago. And that’s just for starters.
“Christine Quinn as the speaker could have stood up to make sure the residents of the West Side had a hospital,” said protester Diane Nichols, who lives in Quinn’s Chelsea district. “At this point a million people from 57th Street to Battery Park have no full-service trauma hospital.”
Upper East Side resident Mickey Kramer said the main problem he has with Quinn is how she runs the City Council.
“There have been so many bills that the majority of the City Council wanted that she doesn’t put up for votes,” said Kramer, citing paid sick leave and establishing a living wage, the latter of which was eventually passed in a much watered-down version.
Despite the ongoing protests, political insiders say the movement probably won’t gain enough traction to affect the November mayoral primary.
“There’s always unusual things that occur in every mayoral election, and this is the first unusual thing that’s occurring here,” said Democratic Party political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who added that he thinks most of the protesters’ arguments are bogus.
“The speaker makes deals,” he said. “That’s the nature of legislative government. Her job is to make deals.”
Sheinkopf, who is serving as an advisor to mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, also downplayed Quinn’s status as the Democratic front-runner. A recent poll has her far ahead of the pack, with 35 percent of likely voters pulling the lever for her as compared with 11 percent for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and 10 percent for Thompson.
“The last front-runner to win the mayoral race was Bob Wagner in 1954, and he was the first and last one to ever do it,” Sheinkopf said.
Moss, who is gay, also thinks Quinn is taking the LGBT vote for granted, despite being the first openly lesbian candidate. He alleges that Quinn attempted to silence protesters when middle-aged gay men were entrapped and falsely arrested for prostitution in the city’s effort to shut down adult video stores.
But several gay political activists called Quinn’s support in the LGBT community rock-solid. Earlier this month she was endorsed by the statewide Empire State Pride Agenda, a key LGBT group.
“In terms of the LGTB vote in New York City, I have no doubt that Chris Quinn will get a sizable proportion—in excess of 50 percent of the vote,” said Matthew McMorrow, co-president of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn.
Ultimately the decision on Quinn’s future is in the hands of the voters. On the blustery night of the Upper West Side protest, most straphangers seemed to be undecided.
“I know who Christine Quinn is, and I think I like her,” said one resident who identified herself only as “Kate.” “But I’m not going to rush to decide who I will vote for.”