CITY HALL — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn vowed to build 40,000 affordable, middle-class apartments over the next 10 years during her final State of the City speech as speaker Monday.
Quinn, who is widely expected to officially launch her bid for mayor soon, described the initiative — which was one of a series designed to bolster the city's middle class — as “the biggest commitment to middle class affordability that this city has seen in two generations."
“We face an affordability crisis in our city,” Quinn told the audience gathered in the City Council chambers. “We need to make sure that the people who want to stay in our great city can afford to stay.”
Quinn said she would pay for the effort through a combination of government efficiencies and more debt, arguing that borrowing was "the right move at the right time" because of record-low interest rates.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in our middle class,” she said.
The proposal was one of a long list unveiled during the speech, which spanned everything from property taxes to education to new job training.
To ensure that units remain affordable, she unveiled a plan that would grant building owners new tax exemptions in exchange for keeping units affordable by capping property taxes at a certain percentage of their rental incomes.
In a familiar idea, Quinn announced plans for a new childcare tax credit for families making up to $150,000 a year to help cover the costs of childcare, which are the highest in the nation.
She also outlined a new workforce training system to help better prepare people for middle-class jobs, and announced a new $13 million fund to help 16,000 undocumented young people enroll in GED classes or other educational programs so they won't be deported under President Barack Obama's "Deferred Action" program.
"If New Yorkers have the right skills, the jobs will follow," she said.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. praised the speech, which included a number of initiatives focused on the South Bronx, including a plan to begin retrofitting trucks to meet new environmental standards in the neighborhood and using the Hunts Point Distribution Center as an anchor to draw more food manufacturing companies.
"This stew had a lot of beef in it," he said after the speech. "If you're a candidate running for mayor of the City of New York and you were not in this room, I hope that you were taking notes," he said.
"She went borough-by-borough, issues-by-issue," he said, "She killed so many birds with one stone here and that's what we want to hear."
But Queens Republican City Councilman Daniel Halloran questioned how Quinn would pay
for the initiatives, given the current economic situation.
"What we've talked about here, there's no way to implement it across the board without massive amounts of tax increases, which the city clearly can't afford right now... We're still in the the throws of a depression," he said.
Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia, Jr. said his staff are already looking at ways to begin to implement some of the initiatives, including the job training component, as soon
as the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently unveiled.
"The debt will really pay for itself and it will create more jobs," he said, arguing the investments would help boost the city's tax base by creating new jobs.
Quinn is facing a crowded field of Democratic challengers for mayor, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, Comptroller John Liu, and former Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese.