Quinn's supposedly complacent attitude toward the NYPD extends all the way up to the commissioner. Her refusal to state categorically that a Mayor Quinn would not re-appoint Ray Kelly marks one more fundamental disagreement between her and the three men vying for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

What looks like ignoble pandering to some, however, looks like a delicate balancing act to others. "She has both the advantage and disadvantage of having to govern as speaker," says Brad Holyman, who took over Duane's seat in the state Senate. "Her opponents, for the most part, have never had to take a position that has citywide ramifications in terms of legislation."

Duane defends Quinn's need to maintain a working relationship with the police commissioner in similar terms. "Destroy her relationship with Commissioner Kelly?" he asks. "As someone who is holding a high-level position for which she has to work with the commissioner appointed by the mayor? How would that help anybody?"

Christine Quinn in Manhattan on April 26, 2013
Caleb Ferguson
Christine Quinn in Manhattan on April 26, 2013

On stop-and-frisk, Quinn doesn't have the luxury of simply disregarding city policy, Duane insists. "She has to work under the policies the mayor has set," he says, "or she'd have to resign." Quinn has instead advocated for changes in police training and for the appointment of an inspector general to monitor the NYPD. Such a diplomatic solution doesn't satisfy critics like Flores. "If Christine Quinn was the head of AVP today, she would be fighting [stop-and-frisk]," he says. Quinn did make one major concession last week when she agreed to allow a council vote on allowing victims of racial profiling to sue the NYPD—the first time she hasn't blocked a bill that she opposes.

On condom-carry, Quinn certainly doesn't equivocate. "Condoms being found on somebody and used against them should be changed," she says. "If I have the power to make direct changes, I will. We need to encourage safe sex. Whether for money or not, we cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths."

As more proof of her being on the right side of history, supporters offer up Quinn's efforts to control police entrapment—a standout issue for LGBT New Yorkers, and gay men in particular. In the years before Stonewall, it was common to send good-looking plainclothes cops undercover to solicit sex and then arrest anyone who came on to them (often after the cop initiated the encounter). And while far less common now, these stings have continued. Activist Robert Pinter was arrested in 2008 and has been fighting ever since to clear his name. Dobbs and Moss both blame Quinn for being slow to condemn the sting, but Pinter disagrees, praising Quinn for her quick response. "She organized a huge meeting in her office that entailed all the elected gay officials, organizations, the NYPD and the chief of the Vice Squad, representatives from the mayor's office and her office," Pinter says. "The Vice Squad said they'd pull back and review what they're doing. That's as close as you'll get to an admission of having done something from the police."

Duane praises Quinn for doing "an amazing job building trust and good relationships between the NYPD and the LGBT community. There are many elected officials who are unwilling even to try."

Quinn repeatedly tells the Voice that she tries to find a balance between opposing sides. She sees her role as speaker as one of "getting things done," she says, "not just rallying and screaming." Calling her negotiating skills "amazing," Duane ticks off a record of clear stances on progressive issues that include school bullying, funding to open the nation's first LGBT senior center, fighting Rudy Giuliani and Bloomberg to keep the city's HIV/AIDS Services Administration running and sufficiently funded, keeping libraries open, and exposing "family planning clinics" as fronts for anti-abortion groups.

To her critics, Quinn's main accomplishment has been her ability to turn everything into an opportunity to solidify support among the city's power brokers. And there's no question that the real estate industry has donated far more to her than to her rivals. Two recent attack ads from a group of political activists imply that these are kickbacks for back-room deals, but that doesn't take into account the tremendous pressures her own council district—which includes the massive Hudson Yards—is under from developers, more than anywhere else in the city.

Even the Quinn-brokered deals that seem most clearly tainted, like redeveloping Chelsea Market or the conversion of St. Vincent's Hospital into luxury housing, are more complicated than they look. For starters, Quinn is sitting across the table from experienced lobbyists and lawyers well versed in how to manipulate the city's arcane regulations to get what they want. In the case of Chelsea Market, she faced the threat of losing the whole ground-floor food court. And about her contentious decision to close St. Vincent's, Hoylman says, "No elected official worked harder to keep that hospital open. The person who closed that hospital was [then-Governor] David Paterson."

Without some concessions to developers from the city, it's doubtful that a single unit of affordable housing would have been built in any of these projects, let alone an urgent-care facility, funds for a new school, and a contribution to a planned AIDS memorial—as the St. Vincent's deal demands. "You move things forward as much as you can," says Duane. "The amount of affordable housing she's incentivized among developers is amazing."

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