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Quinn nixes sick day bill after Corona residents rally for it

A group of small business owners and residents in Corona attempted to turn the tide on the debate surrounding a bill to provide paid time for sick days by holding a rally in support of it last week but a day later City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said no to the controversial measure.

“Providing sick leave to working New Yorkers is a noble goal, and supporters of this bill have the best of intentions,” Quinn said in a statement. “But now is simply not the right time for a measure that threatens the survival of small business owners.”

The rally, held Oct. 13 at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Benham Street in Jackson Heights, was arranged by immigrant-advocacy group Make the Road New York to urge Quinn to support the bill. Some 25 small business owners and residents held up signs written in English and Spanish and chanted, “Sí, Se Puede,” a Spanish phrase that translates to “Yes, it can be done” or “Yes, we can.”

Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said paid sick leave days were in the public interest and did not believe the common argument against the bill — that requiring businesses to pay sick time would be a monetary drain on small businesses and cause them to shut their doors.

“We’re being told this [argument] not by the small business owners but an association of the largest and most powerful corporations in the city of New York,” Friedman said.

Six business owners spoke in support of the bill at the rally. Lawyer Bryan Pu-Folkes said not passing the bill disproportionately affects immigrant and low-income workers, often forcing them to choose between taking care of their sick children or being terminated.

Freddy Castiblanco, a café owner, argued for the bill, saying it would only cost him $300 a year per employee.

“It won’t lead us to bankruptcy,” he said.

Quinn said she had spoken with many on both sides of the issue and shared the policy goal of providing paid sick time, but pointed out that for many employers the bill would cost them $700 to $1,200 per employee.

“At a time like this, those thousands of dollars could be the breaking point for a small business owner already stretched too thin,” Quinn said.

The New York Post claimed Quinn’s decision was an effort to cater to businesses for a potential 2013 run for mayor.

The bill was sponsored by many Queens Council members, including Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and James Sanders (D-Laurelton). The Working Families Party had also backed the bill.

Quinn’s decision was praised by Kathryn Wylde, president of the pro-business The Partnership for New York.

“Quinn showed real leadership today in making the courageous decision to defend the city’s small business community against another costly mandate,” Wylde said.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce also released a statement against the bill.

“While the chamber fully recognizes the good intentions of this bill, the reality is there is an unintended consequence that would ultimately hurt the NYC workers it purports to help,” the chamber said. “The business community has made it clear we support the right of workers to take time off for legitimate illness without fearing job loss.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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