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Mayoral Candidates Attack Quinn on Paid Sick Leave at Uptown Debate

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 22, 2013 8:26am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn received a fresh round of criticism over her opposition to paid sick leave legislation at a mayoral debate Thursday night in Washington Heights.

In response to a question from the audience asking Quinn what she was doing to move the process on paid sick leave along, former city Councilman Sal Albanese, one of several candidates to call for a vote on the bill, accused her of "quelling debate."

"The rules of the City Council are not very democratic if one person — in this case Christine Quinn — can bottle up a piece of legislation," Albanese said.

"This is something that has to be fixed right now in New York City," said Public Advocate Bill De Blasio. "If we cant even get a vote on paid sick days, what does that say to people who are struggling?"

"Put it to a vote," added Comptroller John Liu. "Let's let the vote happen. It's supposed to be a democratic process."

Quinn has been under intense pressure to pass the legislation, which would require businesses with 20 or more workers to give employees nine paid sick days off a year. Employees at business with five to 19 workers would be entitled to five.

The bill has support in the council, but Quinn, who has tried to beef up support with the business community, has blocked it.

Still, she defended her position by saying that while she could not support the current bill, she was confident that a compromise would be reached.

"It's not a question of 'if' on paid sick leave at all, it's just a question of 'when,'" Quinn said.

She did not, however, give any timetable.

The debate, held at the Isabella Geriatric Center, featured Quinn, Liu, De Blasio, Albanese, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. and Reverend Erick Salgado.

The forum was sponsored by the Dominican Women's Coalition, the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, and the Dominican Women's Development Center. The theme of the night was women's issues, and the candidates fielded questions on child care, mental health services, sex trafficking, and equal pay.

The candidates also addressed the issue of keeping real estate affordable for small businesses — a problem that has affected several small businesses in Washington Heights and Inwood. Carrion, Thompson and Albanese accused the city Department of Finance of creating inflated property assessments, the price of which landlords then passed on to business owners.

"The city can no longer use no longer use hardworking people as the ATM to backfield its budget gaps," Carrion said.

Liu called for arbitration between commercial landlords and tenants to prevent business owners from dealing with large rent increases when their leases expired.

"The deck is stacked against our small business owners," Liu said.

The forum was one of three scheduled on Thursday night. On the Upper East Side, Republican candidates said they plan to block the controversial marine transfer station — and truck the trash to New Jersey instead.