Along 71st Avenue, in front of the HSBC Forest Hills branch, a gaggle of people gathered to hear City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) announce her candidacy for mayor on Sunday.
The group, mostly consisting of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and campaign volunteers, held signs reading “Quinn for Mayor” and intermittently cheered “Quinn to win,” as they waited for the speaker to arrive.
At about 1:30 p.m., Quinn paraded down 72nd Avenue with a wall of people behind her, including her wife, Kim Catullo, and her father, Larry.
She took her time strolling down the street, smiling and shaking hands with vendors and passersby. When she made it in front of the bank a crowd circled her to hear what many had been expecting for months.
“I am so happy to be stopping in Queens to announce my candidacy for mayor,” she said.
Quinn didn’t get to say much else, as an angry resident demanded that she answer his question on term limits.
“Why did you push Bloomberg for a third term?” Herbert Goldman yelled over the crowd. “You understand we voted twice for term limits, so do our votes not count?”
Quinn acknowledged Goldman’s question and told him she understood that her vote to grant Mayor Bloomberg a third term may cost her some voters but she stood by her decision.
Still, Goldman, 71 and a retired electrical engineer, was not satisfied, vowing that he would never vote for Quinn.
Despite Goldman’s criticism, many onlookers stood by Quinn and lobbed statements of reassurance and support.
“Forest Hills loves you,” a couple screamed, “We want Quinn for three terms!”
After speaking with the press, Quinn toured the area, stopping first to pick up an iced coffee with cream at Gotta Getta Bagel, the nearby bagel shop on 71st Avenue.
She mingled with patrons, most of whom seemed happy to shake the speaker’s hand, save one man who asked Quinn to kindly leave so he could finish his breakfast without being surrounded by cameras.
The walk-through was short and mostly uneventful as Quinn told reporters her agenda for the city.
“Job creation,” she said was one of her top priorities. “I want to get our unemployment rate down. Not just down to where it was a few years ago, I want it even lower.”
As she continued down Austin Street, Quinn popped into more shops including a nail salon and pizzeria but just before the event wrapped up, a 12-year-old girl and her mother weaved through the photographers and gently tapped the speaker on the shoulder.
“Hi, I wanted to ask you a question,” Bayla Blackstock said in a low voice.
Her question was barely audible over the car horns and shouting supporters but it involved the city’s approach to education for special-needs children.
Bayla’s mom, Mindy, quickly filled in Quinn that her daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia.
“She’s always wanted to meet you,” Blackstock said as her daughter shook Quinn’s hand.
“You know, I’m glad you brought this up,” Quinn said. “The Council has created funds for after-school programs for children with autism but we also need to make it so that we don’t have this conflict between the school system and parents.”
Bayla, who appeared to be overwhelmed by the cameras and tape recorders surrounding her, nodded shyly at Quinn’s response.
“You know what?” Quinn asked. “I’d like to have you and your mom tell me what you think we should do about this but maybe it’d be better to do it in a more private setting. These cameras and all of these people are pretty intimidating.”
Quinn handed Bayla her business card and encouraged her to call anytime.
As Quinn continued down the street, Bayla and her mom said they were thrilled with how the speaker handled the conversation.
“I love Christine Quinn,” Mindy said. “We both think she’s amazing and I am hopeful and optimistic for the future. If she asks me to visit, I absolutely will.”
Mindy said running into Quinn was entirely coincidental.
“We had no idea she’d be here,” Mindy said. “We were out and I had to get her some books for school and then I got her a hot chocolate and we just saw her walking down the street.”
Mindy went on to say that having a child with special needs is difficult when it comes to issues with bullying.
Bayla agreed, saying that being tall is probably the hardest to deal with.
“It’s just hard sometimes to have people judge me by my size and not my age,” she said.
Quinn’s visit to Forest Hills was one stop in her five-borough tour for her candidacy announcement and the first step in her pledge to visit every neighborhood in or part of the city before the Democratic Primary.
Many who attended her tour of Forest Hills praised her for being open and willing to speak with residents.
“It’s way different from Bloomberg,” one man said. “It’s better.”
Quinn, who has been cited as a clear front-runner by members of the Democratic Party will be running against Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and ex-councilmember Sal Albanese for the Democratic nomination.
Current comptroller John Liu is expected to throw his hat in the ring in coming weeks as well.
If Quinn does win, she will be the city’s first female and openly gay mayor ever.