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A raucous assembly of tenants grilled four of the seven City Council speaker candidates on Wednesday night as they attempted to present their plans for improving housing conditions. The event, held at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, was sponsored by Housing Here and Now, a broad coalition of unions, clergy, community-based organizations and advocates. Councilmembers Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn, Joel Rivera, and David Weprin each had one minute to respond to questions related to the coalition’s platform of issues—which include expiring subsidized housing contracts, homeless housing, and home rule over rent laws. Although only City Council members will actually vote for speaker on January 4, Housing Here and Now held the event to make the speaker candidates more visible to the public. “There has always been concern as to how the City Council speaker is chosen,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “Although they have no direct impact on the outcome, these type of events help take the curtain away from how politics operate.” Yet the spirited crowd seemed to have its own agenda. Tenants interrupted each candidate’s opening remarks by yelling and waving orange signs that stated, “Support the Healthy Homes Act,” a pending code enforcement bill. When asked if she would guarantee the act’s passage, Quinn, who supports the legislation, reminded the audience that the speaker does not make such decisions single-handedly. “That is ultimately up to the majority [of the council],” she said. Despite Quinn’s clarification, the crowd booed through the rest of her response. The other three candidates offered a more direct response of “yes” to the question at hand. (B. Farrell) [12/05/2005]

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