The Outsider Comes In

The party bosses choose a former activist as Council Speaker

"He's anti-choice. She did it solely to win Manton's support and the Queens delegation," said Bill Dobbs, a radical gay organizer. Dobbs said Quinn's public status as a lesbian counted for little compared to the issues she will wrestle with. "Let's not confuse a seat at the table or a fancy title with progress," he said. "Think Clarence Thomas, or Madeleine Albright. There is a lot more to change than diversifying representatives."

Quinn's evolution has been hard to miss. A tousled brunette when she first joined the council, she accepted her nomination last week as a carefully coiffed redhead in a black skirt-suit bedecked with white pearls. But neither the makeover nor the political accommodations bother her longtime fans. "I saw her star quality when she first started as an organizer," said Michael McKee, a veteran tenant advocate who is also active in gay causes. "It may sound parochial, but I think the fact that a mere 19 years after the City Council passed a gay rights bill a lesbian is being elected Speaker says a lot."

The Crowley fundraiser only demonstrated her astuteness, said McKee. "When I heard about it, I said, 'That's a smart move on her part. That is Manton's favorite congressman and he is worried about holding onto his seat.' Does it bother me? No."

New Council Speaker Christine Quinn
photo: Dan Luhmann
New Council Speaker Christine Quinn


Quinn arrived at City Hall shortly before noon on Wednesday, sweeping across the plaza with her family as a crowd of photographers snapped away. Inside the rotunda there were more hugs and kisses than a mob wedding as a swarm of lobbyists, now dependent on Quinn's goodwill, descended on her.

Among those embracing her was Joe Strasburg, the former Vallone chief of staff Quinn haunted in her lobbying days, a formidable opponent to many of her old causes who went on to become the city's leading landlord lobbyist, head of the Rent Stabilization Association. The whispers among pro-tenant councilmembers last week was that Strasburg's RSA would get from Quinn what it has gotten from every Speaker or majority leader before her: the right to approve the appointment of the next chair of the council's housing and buildings committee, which considers all landlord-tenant legislation.

Asked about Strasburg's clout, Quinn demurred with finesse. "I am sure there will be lots of advocacy groups and trade associations who will give their input to this office over the next two weeks over who should chair many of the committees. We will take everybody's thoughts."

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