UPDATE INCLUDES STATEMENT FROM QUINN CAMPAIGN REGARDING STATUS OF WEST BANK
Despite her father being hospitalized and awaiting knee surgery, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn kept her commitment to attend a candidate forum with board members of the Orthodox Union at its Lower Manhattan headquarters Wednesday afternoon.
The Democrat and mayoral hopeful expressed support for funding security, special education and other programs at non-public schools at the meeting, but said she would not favor assistance for parents who pay parochial school tuition in the form of vouchers or tax credits.
“Tuition assistance is not something I support,” she said in response to a reporter’s question.
Asked about a bill in the Council that would require the city to provide school safety officers in private schools, upon request, Quinn said she was looking at the issue. “We’ve heard loud and clear that this is an area where the non-public schools need help and we would like to work with them,” she said. Noting that the state’s Blaine Amendment restricts tax dollars for religious schools, Quinn said she wanted to work with private-school coalitions to see what was feasible.
Her remarks to the group extensively regarded her policies on public education, including extending the school day for older students. She stressed that she would uphold mayoral control of the school system because “it’s important for all city agencies to have the buck stop with the mayor.” That statement drew applause from the OU leaders.
She also expressed support for extending federal funds for recovering from Superstorm Sandy to faith-based and other nonprofit organizations.
In response to a question by Daniel Labovitz, president of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan about the impact of the 91st Street Marine Transfer on the Upper East Side, Quinn said she continued to support the station because “every borough and every community needs to do its fair share to take care of its own garbage,” and access to the East River for transporting trash on barges reduced truck traffic on city streets.
Quinn was also asked if she considered the West Bank to be occupied by Israel, an issue brought into the race when former congressman Anthony Weiner recently said he believed otherwise, in response to a blogger’s question on the campaign trail. Weiner at the time said he believed the status of the territories should be decided by those who live there and noted that there are differing views of what constitutes the West Bank.
Quinn, who has visited Israel several times on delegations sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, initially sidestepped the question from a JTA reporter, saying she was not familiar with what Weiner said and would have to look into it.
On Thursay a Quinn spokesman sent a statement to JTA and The Jewish Week saying “Chris believes the West Bank is a disputed territory and that the Israelis and Palestinians must sit down and negotiate a solution. As Mayor, Chris will use the bully pulpit of the office and everything she can to urge the two sides to sit and negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict through the establishment of two states for two peoples that ensures safety and security for the State of Israel.”
Asked by The Jewish Week about the unlikely success of Weiner in the Democratic primary – polls show him ahead of or tied with Quinn at the top of the field – she insisted that would change in due course.
“Polls go up and down,” she said. “This has been a bit of a circus. That will come to an end as people focus on the issues. I’m exceedingly confident. New Yorkers know that talk is cheap.”
Quinn said both Weiner and former governor Eliot Spitzer, who declared his intention to run for city comptroller this week, had not earned second chances from the public. “You have to ask what have they been doing in the span of time since they left office,” Quinn said. “Were they working for the good of New Yorkers and the city? And what did they do with their time in office? Anthony Weiner passed one bill in his time in Congress and that was at the request of one of his donors.”
She was referring to a bill intended to fight cigarette tax evasion through Internet sales, which according to press reports benefitted a family friend and major campaign donor who sells cigarettes.
Quinn was introduced at the gathering by Councilman David Greenfield, who is Orthodox and represents parts of Borough Park and Flatbush. But Greenfield said he was not yet making an endorsement in the mayoral race.
Lawrence Quinn, 86, who has been a regular presence at his daughter’s side throughout her tenure as speaker as well as on the campaign trail, was scheduled to have knee replacement surgery Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Quinn said she planned to visit him immediately after the OU session.