New York business owners openly worry about who will become the city’s mayor after Michael Bloomberg leaves office in January 2014. “He’s not anything special, but we know the left-wing crazies are held at bay while he’s in office,” one told me recently.
Indeed, the front-runner to follow Bloomberg is one of those “crazies” — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. This week, she used her official letterhead to write John Sexton, the president of the private New York University, to urge him to evict the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A from its position in the university’s food court. Its sin was that the chain’s president, Dan Cathy, had declared his support for traditional marriage — a political position held until very recently by President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law.
But Quinn was intent on punishing Chick-fil-A. She even went so far as to begin her letter: “I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council.” While she has since backtracked, her move drew fire from even Democrats. “She can write to someone as a council member, but if she states that she is writing as the speaker it can only be on behalf of the entire council. She has to have the majority vote of the council, and I don’t recall voting on this matter,” city councilman Peter Vallone (D., Queens) told Fox News. “A stance on gay marriage is in no way a forum to prevent someone from running a business in a community.”
NYU is acting as if it is paying attention to Quinn’s demands. John Beckman, a spokesman for NYU, issued a written statement saying school officials are looking into the issue of whether Chick-fil-A is appropriate: “The University Administration will ask the University Senate to take up the issue of Chick-fil-A’s status on campus again when it reconvenes this fall to make a recommendation on how to proceed.”
Quinn’s intolerance follows that of Boston mayor Tom Menino, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Philadelphia council member James Kenney, all of whom have tried to run Chick-fil-A out of their towns.
But what’s the next step? After all, leading religious leaders such as New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Imam Shamsi Ali, head of New York’s largest mosque, have made it clear they agree with Chick-fil-A’s president. Dolan has written: “The definition of marriage is a given: It is a life -long union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.”
Quinn is on record as saying that while she supports the work of Catholic Charities, she believes the church itself has “homophobic positions.” When the New York Daily News asked her if that meant she would urge landlords to boot the Catholic archdiocese or a mosque from rented quarters, she was evasive: “Asked whether she would have written the same letter to NYU on mayoral stationery had she been occupying that office, she declined to discuss a hypothetical.”
New York’s mayoral race is already heating up. Quinn’s major opponent in the Democratic primary is Bill DeBlasio, the city’s public advocate, and a candidate in league with the left-wing Working Families Party, an offshoot of the infamous ACORN movement. No wonder New York business leaders are desperately looking for an alternative. Republican leaders have discussed having wealthy supermarket owner John Catsimatidis and newspaper publisher Tom Allon run. Some have even floated backing former state senate majority leader Malcolm Smith, an African-American Democrat who is tough on crime and pro-business, as a “fusion” candidate who would run on the Republican line along with that of other minor parties.
The concern about who New York’s next mayor will be is real and growing. It’s been 20 years since New York City had a Democratic mayor, and from the way Quinn and DeBlasio have behaved in their current offices there appear to be few limits on the amount of damage they could do to the city’s business climate if they took office.