For 40 years, the City Council has had a Vallone within its ranks. As he begins his second year in office, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said he was looking to unite the 19th Council District to address community concerns.
Vallone said that after the arrest of his predecessor, Councilman Dan Halloran, his priority in taking over was to bring the district back to where he said it should have been all along.
“Look at what we inherited. You took a district that was basically in shambles,” he said. “It was last in everything, last in City attention, funding, focus.”
The City, he said, has historically left the district to its own devices, and the main struggle is to bring funding back to the district where it previously would have been ignored.
“Our district was always seen to be OK on its own,” he said. “We’re not. We’re like everyone else, we’re struggling. The recession hit us, too.”
In a conversation with the Queens Tribune, Vallone addressed his priorities for the coming year. An elder law attorney by trade, the Councilman said he would be looking at ways to improve quality of life for seniors City-wide.
As chair of the Council’s subcommittee on Senior Centers, Vallone said he was given the go-ahead to create a senior task force, which will discuss issues pertaining to senior citizens and look to find solutions before going ahead with legislation.
“We started out inviting the top people in the private industry and the public sector and went to all facets of seniors, and all the things that keep our seniors viable in the community,” he said. “And there’s a lot that we can do better.”
He noted that his district had one of the oldest populations in the Borough, and he would be working with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on senior age-friendly districts. With 10 senior-friendly districts identified throughout the City, including District 19, Vallone said he would be identifying ways the City can improve things for the older population.
“You’re going to see increased focus this year on things to support our seniors,” he said. “For me, it was more countdown crosswalks, more seating in the parks, more programs in the libraries and transportation to senior centers.”
Transportation was an issue he said that affected more than just the senior population. The Councilman said he would continue to create new ways for his constituents to get around the City. One way to do that, he said, was to create a ferry stop at the World’s Fair Marina near Citi Field.
“If you have the choice of taking an extra 10 to 15 minutes to take a ferry on a summer day versus taking the 7 train, I’m jumping on the ferry,” he said.
As the City moves forward with plans for ferry service to Astoria, Long Island City and the Rockaways, Vallone said that adding ferry service at the World’s Fair Marina could be a jumping-off point to getting ferry service further east, including to the marina in Bayside.
While his brother, former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., was best known as chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, the Northeast Queens representative did not hesitate to discuss the current climate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD.
Vallone said he was taken aback by the Mayor’s preliminary budget, which included no funding for additional officers in the City. Since the murder of two police officers in Brooklyn in December, Vallone said the Mayor needed to take responsibility for the rhetoric put out there while he pushed for reform within the NYPD.
“I think he could have taken a step back, and in his advocacy for change, realized that you still have the world’s greatest police department,” he said. “None of that was ever mentioned. It’s all about reform, reform, reform.”
Back in his own district, Vallone said he was looking forward to the Participatory Budgeting process, which allocates $1 million to participating districts to vote on projects important to area residents. Voting in District 19 would take place the first week of April, he said.
“It’s exciting to hear the things that are beyond what you thought, because I have my council ideas to do things, and now people are coming in with ideas of their own,” Vallone said. “A lot of it is all connected.”