DETROIT -

Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr defended his view that the Detroit Institute of Arts collection should be considered as a way to help the city pay its staggering debts.

"There may be some of your fellow citizens who have to choose between cat food and tuna fish to eat -- or housing," said Orr. "And I’ve got this great collection over here that some people say don’t ever touch it."

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What he describes as “tier one” art will be appraised by this month, and “tier two” art by November.

Orr says he has no plan yet for the collection.

"When you come into town you don’t be the person responsible for selling grandma’s fine china, or the wedding silver. But think of this: We have an obligation to our creditors who are owed a great deal of money," said Orr.

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Later this month, Orr will face a crucial eligibility hearing in bankruptcy court. If Judge Steven Rhodes rules the city did not bargain with creditors in good faith, he could rule that Detroit isn’t eligible for Chapter 9.

"It’s hard to have good faith negotiations, when someone is constantly suing you and inhibits your ability to discharge your obligations. So I feel fairly strongly we are eligible."

Orr offered no consolation for pensioners who fear cuts will hurt them.

"All I can say is, I’m put here for a reason. This is an emergency. This is a crisis."

Protesters denounced Orr outside the meeting at the Motor City Casino. Orr urged the business community to “step up” against the “voices of division and destruction."

"You have to keep this city on course once we right this ship, against the same forces that took it off course again and again,” he said.