Mixed Bag for NY’s Working, Middle Class Families in 2013 Mayoral Election

Your rent is too damn high. You’re trying to make a living in the worst economy since the Depression. If you have a job, you probably haven’t gotten more than a token raise in years, and there’s a good chance you’re working freelance or part-time, with no benefits or security.

Front-runner Christine Quinn speaking to business leaders in Brooklyn. (Photo: Myrtle Avenue Business Partnership/CC)

Front-runner Christine Quinn speaking to business leaders in Brooklyn. (Photo: Myrtle Avenue Business Partnership/CC)

So what does this year’s crop of mayoral candidates have to offer you, after 12 years of rule by Michael Bloomberg, the seventh-richest person in the United States—who increased his fortune by more than $22 billion while in office?

Six of the 11 now running are Democrats—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, plus former Councilmember Sal Albanese and activist/comedian Randy Credico. Four are seeking the Republican nomination: former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chair Joseph Lhota, supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, community-newspaper publisher Tom Allon, and George McDonald, head of the Doe Fund, a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. is the Independence Party nominee.

Quinn is generally considered the front-runner, as she has raised the most money and is well ahead of the other Democratic hopefuls in current polls. She’s straddling the need to appeal to working people while pleasing her funders in the city’s power elite—joining tenants protesting outside a Washington Heights building with no heat or electricity, but also blocking the Council from voting on a bill to require businesses to give employees paid sick leave.

Her record on housing issues reflects this. Under her leadership, the Council has passed legislation to have the city single out the buildings with the worst housing-code violations for aggressive inspection, to require city inspectors to cite the underlying causes of problems such as leaks, and to authorize the city to make repairs itself and sue the landlord for their cost. She’s annually urged the city Rent Guidelines Board, which sets permissible increases for the more than 900,000 remaining rent-stabilized apartments, to freeze rents, and gone to Albany several times to lobby for repeal of the state law that prevents the city from strengthening its rent regulations, while de Blasio, Liu, and Thompson haven’t.

On the other hand, Quinn has taken far more money from the real-estate lobby than any of the other candidates, and has supported megadevelopment deals that are packing her Greenwich Village-Chelsea district with high-priced high-rises, from the just-approved rezoning of the Hudson Square area west of Soho to the Manhattan West and Hudson Yards luxury housing and retail complexes being built west of Penn Station. (Similar rezonings in Greenpoint-Williamsburg and Long Island City have jammed the waterfront there with luxury housing too, and produced only a fraction of the affordable units promised.) You have to look pretty hard to find a black, Latino, or working-class person in the ads for Manhattan West. The Related Companies, Hudson Yards’ developer, has contributed more than $40,000 to Quinn’s campaign.