By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn laid out new measures to preserve affordable housing and make parking less of a headache in her annual State of the City address Tuesday afternoon.
Quinn, one of the presumed front-runners in the 2013 mayoral race, announced the creation of a new database of affordable housing units with a "red alert system" to notify the city and tenants about when rent protections are set to expire and turn market-rate.
"All too often we're left saying — if only we had more time. That ends today," Quinn told the audience of council members and other city officials gathered in the auditorium of the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown in a far-ranging speech that addressed issues both large and small.
Quinn also announced a package of new legislation aimed at minimizing alternate side parking restrictions and helping drivers avoid getting slapped with tickets they don't deserve.
Quinn called for the passage of legislation recently debated by the Council that would allow neighborhoods that receive consistently high street cleanliness grades to choose to forgo one day of alternate side parking a week.
She also called for new measures to protect drivers who are written tickets as they're trying to pay at Muni-Meters, drawing applause from the audience. As the law currently stands, enforcement agents can't cancel tickets once they've started writing them. New legislation would require ticket agents to immediately tear up tickets if drivers presents proof that they've already paid.
"Ticketing is supposed to help us enforce the law — not help the city make a quick buck. But almost every New Yorker has a story about getting tickets they clearly didn't deserve," Quinn said.
"This is bureaucratic red tape at its absolute worst — the stuff that makes New Yorkers feel like government is just out to nickel and dime them," she said.
She promised legislation that would create an interactive online map showing drivers exactly where they can park and which blocks are closed for construction, street fairs and filming
Quinn also took the opportunity to voice her support for pension reform for city workers, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been lobbying Albany to pass.
"Our current pension and benefit structure is simply not sustainable," she said, but offered no specifics others than adding, "I urge both the mayor and our city's labor leader to be equally open to negotiating and making fair and responsible changes to meet the difficult challenges ahead."
But Quinn, who is seen as a close ally of the mayor, broke with him over a proposal to cut capital spending by 20 percent.
"That kind of across the board cut comes with serious consequences — and I simply cannot support it," she said, arguing that too many jobs depend on the projects, which include things like repairing bridges and building schools.
Instead, she proposed a new "pay-as-you-go" system that would have the city pay up to $1 billion of the capital budget upfront.
She also called for more aggressive oversight of all city contracts, which are now costing the city more than $10 billion.
Following the address, City Comptroller John Liu, another likely candidate for mayor, said the "pay-as-you-go" idea is always a lofty goal, but with the budget so far in the red, there is little money to set aside.
"I think the speaker's onto something good. The only difficulty is that the operating budget is already facing a significant shortfall that needs to be closed," said Liu, who also opposes the mayor's cuts to capital projects.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio gave Quinn high grades, applauding her efforts to take on the type of quality of life issues that he gets calls about every day.
"I think it got at a lot of nuts and bolts issues that really need attention," he said.