New York City Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn has pledged her support to make immigration reform a top priority if elected this fall to lead the nation's largest city.
Speaking to IrishCentral, the Democratic hopeful said she was going “fight, like you cannot imagine in Washington” to ensure New York is doing everything it can do for reform.
A longtime advocate for reform, Quinn’s four grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the early 1900s, her maternal grandmother was one of the few passengers in steerage on board the Titanic to make it out alive.
“I am going to make fighting for immigration reform, if it’s hasn’t come to fruition by the time I am Mayor, I am going to make it one of my top priorities,” Quinn, the current Speaker of the New York City Council said during a recent interview.
“One of the things that makes New York, New York is that we are an immigrant city.
“We will lose part of who we are and what we are if we don’t continue to be an immigrant city.”
Elected Speaker in 2006, Quinn is set to face the biggest challenge of her political career to date when she attempts to win the Democratic nomination on September 10th.
Quinn is hotly tipped to join one opponent three weeks later in a run off to gain the 40 percent of the vote needed to become her party's outright choice for November’s mayoral election.
The daughter of one-time union steward and a social worker for Catholic Charities, Quinn equates her political platform to her vision for New York City’s middle class.
Job growth, affordable housing and improving New York City schools are among the key areas she intends to focus on, if elected.
“I plan to build 40,000 affordable apartments across the city for middle income New Yorkers,” Quinn told IrishCentral. “I cannot tell you how many New Yorker’s I hear say they just cannot find a place they can afford.”
The Long Island native has also vowed to improve the quality of city schools, with a focus on technology.
“I want to see less text books and more tablets…children working on 21st century devices.”
Regardless of her vision, Quinn’s critics cite her close working relationship with current incumbent, Michael Bloomberg, as a conflict of interest.
The Irish American voted in favor of getting term limits overturned in 2008, thus paving the way for Bloomberg’s third term in office; a decision many New Yorker’s hold against her.
“I thought it was the right thing to do and I still do,” she told IrishCentral.
“I did what I think we want elected officials to do, I made a decision that I thought was right for the city.”
When pressed on the possible damaging effect of her close her ties to Bloomberg, the Democratic candidate took the opportunity to take a swipe at leadership in Washington, a place she says is “mired in constant, constant gridlock”.
“I think you want a mayor who is willing to work with anyone and everyone, who is willing to work for the best interests of New York City."
Quinn cites Washington DC as the antithesis of “working with anyone and everyone”.
“If you disagree on one issue, forget about it, you can’t work together,” she said.
“Nothing good is happening [in Washington] for New Yorkers,” she continued. “So I am going to work with everybody I can work with, if working with them makes New York City a better place.”
Though many of Quinn’s critics point to her ties to Bloomberg, the pair don’t agree on everything.
On the topic of stop-and-frisk, Quinn disagrees with Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s current policy, which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last week.
As part of her plan to make the city “a better place”, Quinn promises to stop the controversial police practice, which she recently condemned as being "out of control."
“The evidence that you need to stop this many people to keep crime down is not true,” Quinn said.
“The truth is that crime went down the most in New York city when stops were at a much lower level.”
Earlier this year, Quinn led the council in passing a bill to establish an Inspector General for the New York City Police Department, who will oversee the police force.
“We are going to put 1,000 more mobile cameras out there,” she told IrishCentral.
“With right police monitoring, that we will now have because of the inspector general, we will be able to make sure we are not violating anyone’s civil liberties while also keeping the city safe.”
With just three weeks left to the Democratic primary, Quinn’s is in full stride to take on her opponents and become the first female mayor of Gracie Mansion.
As one of the few surviving steerage passengers on board the Titanic, Quinn’s grandmother, Ellen Shine Callaghan, was quoted as saying when others girls dropped to their knees to pray, she took a run for it.
“A priest joked to me once that my Grandmother knew you could pray while running,” Quinn laughed.
When asked what advice she thinks her Irish grandparents would offer for her mayoral bid, Quinn reflects it “would be beyond their wildest dreams.”
Concluding: “They would probably tell me to keep praying while I am running!”
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore