Mayoral Candidates Clash Continuously at Latino Debate

20130612 174803 Mayoral Candidates Clash Continuously at Latino Debate
A demonstration outside the Bronx mayoral forum in support of the Upper East Side transfer station.

It appears the gloves are finally off.

At a forum in the Bronx on Wednesday, Sal Albanese accused Public Advocate Bill de Blasio of fibbing, disputing his assertion that a garbage transfer station in Red Hook was actually within “walking distance” of Mr. de Blasio’s Park Slope home. And in a rare moment in the endless parade of forums, Mr. de Blasio, actually shot back.

“Sal, Sal, I have long tolerated your reconfigurations of the truth and I actually can walk easily from my house at 11th Street and 6th Avenue to the Hamilton Avenue station,” Mr. de Blasio sharply told his lesser-known rival and fellow Brooklynite at the contentious forum. “I guarantee it Sal, I’ll come walk with you one day.”

For Mr. de Blasio, it represented what may be a turning point for himself and his Democratic rivals in the increasingly tight primary: they are becoming more willing to go on the attack against each other in person.

Just as Mr. de Blasio previously ignored Mr. Albanese’s jabs at his character and record, Council Speaker Christine Quinn seemed to tire of brushing off constant broadsides from Mr. de Blasio. And Bill Thompson, not typically the focal point of any verbal clashes, found himself enduring  the wrath of Mr. de Blasio and even members of the crowd at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx.

(Anthony Weiner, barring moments when he drew boos and catcalls from the crowd for speaking out against a proposed Upper East Side trash transfer station, managed to avoid the fray.)

“I have to take issue with Speaker Quinn saying that she wants to differentiate from Bloomberg’s policy on this because she has been the mayor’s chief ally while he’s been doing this,” Mr. de Blasio said at one point, responding to a question about the supposed inadequate funding of Latino nonprofits. “The third term was brought to us by Speaker Quinn working in cooperation with Mayor Bloomberg to change the term limits law.”

Ms. Quinn, a strained smile on her face, hit back at Mr. de Blasio for doing little more than issuing a “press release” to prevent nonprofit cuts from his less-powerful perch as public advocate

“When the mayor had a proposal out there to close down senior centers … with my colleagues I didn’t just criticize it. I just didn’t have a press conference; I stopped it,” Ms. Quinn said. “Last year, when there was proposal to close daycare centers all over the city, ones in the Bronx and communities of color that didn’t score well enough on the [request for proposals], we didn’t just issue a press release, we put that money back in the budget … So that’s what it’s about, not way you say, not what you promise, what you’ve done.”

“I just have to have a ‘get real moment’ here,” replied the public advocate. “You can’t say you brought back the mayor back for a third term and you made things a little less bad. It doesn’t work that way.”

“It does,” Ms. Quinn began, as applause drowned her out. “If you’re one of those parents who still has a daycare center to go, if you’re one those daycare workers who has a job, if you’re one of those children who’s learning in the same environment because of what I did with my colleagues last year, that’s what you care about.”

The forum, hosted by several Hispanic organizations including the newspaper El Diaro, encouraged the Democrats to clash on a variety of issues that impact the city’s growing Latino community, including immigration and the distribution of garbage transfer stations in the five boroughs. The proposed construction of a waste transfer station on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has become a hot-button issue of the primary. Advocates of the station, including protesters at the forum, argue it forces higher-income neighborhoods to finally share the burden of dealing with the city’s trash. Detractors say the Manhattan station will destroy a park and hurt residents who live in a nearby housing project.

While Ms. Quinn and Mr. Thompson have already fought over the station, Mr. Thompson’s opposition to the construction was questioned by another rival and openly challenged by furious spectators in the auditorium.

“Go visit the site, it bisects a development for children, Asphalt Green, the rail runs down the middle of Asphalt Green … It is a bad site,” Mr. Thompson said as boos rained down upon him. “We need to move forward in reducing the number of sites in African-American and Latino communities … We need to look at other sites as a part of the larger, solid waste plan.”

After Ms. Quinn defended the Upper East Side station–Mr. Thompson interrupted her several times, blurting out, “this is not true” and “we can find other sites”– Mr. de Blasio took a rare shot at Mr. Thompson.

“I have to say, with absolute respect to Bill Thompson, you can’t have it both ways on this issue,” he said. “The site has to stay there–there’s no two ways about it.”

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