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Vallone hits the ground running

He’s only been in office for six weeks, but 19th District Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) is already proposing legislation and setting up a student program that could go citywide.

The attorney, son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone and brother to former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), is resurrecting a bill first proposed by then-Councilman Tony Avella to enforce restrictive covenants in neighborhoods. If passed, he believes it will prevent wanton destruction of houses whose owners say they were not aware of the covenants that protects properties in certain neighborhoods.

Vallone is particularly excited about a student ambassador program he is instituting in the next couple of weeks in his district. “I have four public and parochial high schools in my district, but I hope it will eventually extend to all high schools in the city,” he said during a Monday interview at the Queens Chronicle offices.

He said the program will be geared to juniors in high school, who will meet together, come up with plans, visit the City Council and propose bills. “It doesn’t have to be student-related legislation,” Vallone said. “Their proposals may not be passed, but it’s great exposure for the students.”

High schools in his district are Bayside, World Journalism, Holy Cross and St. Agnes.

Helping small businesses is another priority for Vallone, who has already met with members of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District. “They have a great vision, but they need help,” he said. “They need a partnership with the city.”

So Vallone said he wants to expand the group’s festivals in an attempt to bring more business to the shopping area. He envisions a winter festival with possible fireworks as well as improving parking, lighting, planters and benches in the BID district.

On a more general level, the new councilman said he wants to expedite the application process and ease fines for merchants. “The city has to be business friendly with loans and credit line, and any start-up business should be given tax breaks,” Vallone said.

Regarding much-needed schools for his district, he reiterated that the School Construction Authority has assured him that it is not focusing on the former Cresthaven site in a residential and remote Whitestone area for a high school. “You need to put a school in the right place, though no one wants one in their neighborhood,” Vallone said. “But you have to maximize the benefit.”

The important thing, he added, is for the Department of Education to work with communities on potential sites. He still favors the former Flushing Airport for one of them.

The councilman is particularly concerned about senior citizens as Queens has the largest population in the country and District 19 one of the largest. “It will be a challenge as demands will grow,” Vallone said. “We have to focus on the role of adult protective services, Meals on Wheels and basic services provided.”

He believes that it’s necessary to relook at funding for seniors by the city and state. “We need to cut through bureaucracy and make it better.”

Another of his major goals is to regain the trust of voters in his district and for the district to get the money it deserves. “We lost $1.5 million after Councilman Dan Halloran was indicted last year,” Vallone said.

Vallone replaced Halloran in office after he opted not to run for re-election after being charged with federal bribery charges.

“We have to reconnect the district with the city and I have good relations with all,” he said. “I hope that will bring us back.”

See full article at Queens Chronicle.