Renaissance Women Unite: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Comes to Barnard

by Soyini Driskell

Christine Quinn is running for New York Mayor
in September 2013.

Last Thursday, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is beginning her official bid for Mayor, had a conversation with President Spar on a range of topics. The speaker’s campaign is closely tied to Barnard. As she opened her remarks she gave some shoutouts to a few alums and current students who have worked or are still on her campaign: Maura Kearney ’96, Sarah Scheinman ’12, and current senior, Eva Schneider ’13, who will be working for the campaign full-time after her graduation.

Quinn is an engaging speaker: anecdotal and charming, with many ad-libs that drew on the warmth from the audience. She related a story about her grandmother who survived the crash of the Titanic and was one of the few women from third class (steerage) to do so. When asked how she made it off the ship when most of the poorer passengers did not, Quinn said her grandmother told her: “When the rest of the girls dropped down to pray, I made a run for it.” That break-from-the-pack mentality was an underlying theme in the Speaker’s remarks to the audience in the Event Oval of the Diana Center.

Barnard’s own president, Debora Spar,
frequently speaks on a lot of the same issues
Quinn addressed last Thursday

Among other topics, Quinn broached the subject of the ‘renaissance woman’—an archetypal, unattainable standard of perfection that puts pressure on today’s young women. The topic is an especially poignant one for President Spar, what with her Washington Post article “Why Our Brightest Female Students Are Still at a Disadvantage,” as well as a string of her other articles addressing many of the same topics. She framed this within a larger and more personal narrative of being a woman who has had to push many of these fears and voices aside in order to get things done. She touted the strength of getting out of one’s own way.

Speaker Quinn briefly answered questions on the stop-and-frisk tactic of the NYPD (she compared it to a tool in an officer’s ‘toolbox’ but agreed that the way was approached needs to be drastically changed, as it doesn’t yield the results it should).

When asked by President Spar what she would, in a hypothetical, fix with the wave of a wand, Quinn quickly mentioned affordable housing. Housing was a crucial part of her State of the City address on February 11th, where she mentioned both an “affordability crisis” and a “middle class squeeze.” Unfortunately, she was unable to go into greater detail on some of the ideas she broached in that earlier speech, which included a 30-year cap on real estate taxes for landlords who continue to be a part of the housing program that sets aside 20% of apartments in new buildings to be offered below-market rents, among other ideas.

As a New Yorker, and someone who hopes to (possibly? Maybe? In my dreams?) afford real estate in this city, I would have loved to hear Speaker Quinn speak more tangibly on her ideas for affordable housing, child literacy, and after-school programs, as well as the city’s continued efforts to rebuild large portions of the outer boroughs damaged by Hurricane Sandy five months ago.

Most importantly, as Quinn included in her talk, the democratic primary in New York is September 10th, 2013, so to everyone who cares about Ms. Quinn’s fate in this election, or just the mayor’s race in general, save the date and vote!

Soyini Driskell is a student at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of CNN and International House New York.

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