On Thursday night on “Inside City Hall,” the three candidates for Council District 23 debated the top issues of the district that sit on the eastern edge of Queens.

Councilwoman Linda Lee faced off against challengers Steve Behar and Rubaiya Rahman over issues including affordable housing, climate change and education.

Their district includes parts of Bayside, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Fresh Meadows, Hollis and Queens Village.

What You Need To Know

  • Topics that were discussed in the debate included affordable housing, basement apartments, climate emissions and education

  • Candidates in the race include Councilwoman Linda Lee, Rubaiya Rahman and Steve Behar

  • Primary Day is June 27

On the issue of affordable housing, all three candidates acknowledged new housing is needed but avoided suggesting a location within the district.

“We should be building across the city but maintaining the character of our communities,” said Democratic challenger Behar.

“We have to work on building it but in a way that makes sense and also to give enough flexibility so that different neighborhoods can have different types of housing,” said Lee, who is looking to keep her seat on the council.

Rahman used the opportunity to highlight the plight of condo owners under Local Law 97 that requires large buildings to meet new energy and emissions goals by next year.

“These co-op owners would be losing their affordable housing because of the humongous amount of money they will have to spend for conversion and also if they cannot do it they will be penalized,” said Rahman.

Lee and Behar also pointed to issues with the requirement.

Lee said she has a bill aimed at delaying enforcement of the new law by seven years. Behar called for exceptions.

When asked about legalizing basement apartments, which would open up housing, Behar said he is against the proposal citing safety concerns including floods.

Lee said she is not opposed to the idea but had concerns over who would pay to bring the basement apartments up to code.

“If we legalize it, then the question is who is paying for that and then where do those costs fall? Is it going to fall on homeowners? Are they going to pass that on to whoever is renting it?” said Lee.

Rahman said some basement apartments are good contenders for legalization.

“We need to make some adjustments with that, if it is street level. I think that can be legalized,” Rahman said.

The two challengers also questioned Lee on her vote for last year’s city budget that cut funding to schools.

“To me schools are the last places we cut in a budget,” said Behar.

Rahman, a mother to an autistic son, noted that less funding impacts special education teachers.

“Our special needs kids will end up in home, they are not getting services,” said Rahman citing that cuts would hurt the most vulnerable children. Lee tried to clarify her vote on the city’s budget—which was overwhelmingly passed by the Council that did decrease funding to schools.

“If you look at the Fare Student Funding formula, the dollars per student have actually not gone down,” said Lee before going further to defend her vote from last year. “If we see any schools with a drop in the budget, it is because the enrollment has gone down.”

Early voting is underway and Primary Day is June 27.