BY JAMES FARRELL
City Council candidates for the 19th district discussed everything from development to quality of life issues during a “candidates night” at the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association meeting on June 22.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) is defending his seat from city planner and activist Paul Graziano. Vallone argued that his district had grown to prominence under his watch, particularly from a budgetary standpoint.
“Where were we four years ago? Very simply, we were last,” he said. “The budget, before I came in, was $1.8 million. That was in 2013.
We just closed on the 2018 budget for the fourth year, and we just finished putting $67 million into the district.”
Vallone cited capital funding to local schools and renovations to Bowne Park as examples of where money had been spent. He also touted the addition of the Neighborhood Coordinating Officer (NCO) program to the 109th NYPD precinct, which added new officers to patrol the area.
Vallone admitted that a community effort to landmark the historic neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing to prevent tear downs and illegal conversions had come up short, saying, “We did what we could.” He recalled walking the streets of Broadway-Flushing with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which ultimately decided that “too much of the neighborhood has changed, and we’re not going to allow the totality of the community to get landmarked,” Vallone said.
“If you’re going to ask a city agency—or the Landmarks Preservation Committee or the Buildings Department—to do something of magnitude of that scale, and there’s no relationship whatsoever, the odds are that’s never going to happen,” Vallone said. “But we did.
We said we’re going to try this again.”
He defended his record in protecting the community’s character, citing a number of quality of life bills that he had introduced or co-sponsored. One such bill eliminated the wait for a stop-work order between when a notice to revoke a permit is issued and when the permit is revoked.
Paul Graziano, who is known in Flushing for his work to preserve the character of the neighborhood, said that Vallone was overstating his budgetary record and argued that, over the years, the City Council has started to hand out more equal budgetary cuts to each district and, therefore, Vallone’s budgetary increases are not unique.
“To listen to this as if the wheel was reinvented is particularly galling,” Graziano said.
Graziano also attacked Vallone for his ties to the real estate industry and argued that Vallone hadn’t done enough to stop changes to the 19th district. Graziano said that the core of his campaign is to “protect our neighborhoods” from overdevelopment.
“In the three-and-a-half years that the current councilman has been in office, we have seen a continued increase in illegal conversions and the destruction of our communities,” Graziano said.
Graziano said that his work as a zoning expert, civic activist and planning consultant for state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has given him the experience to fight overdevelopment. He noted that he authored the nomination that landed Broadway-Flushing on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a land use consultant to the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association and other civics, addressed development issues and organized a compromise between the Station Road Civic Association and a Korean church being built in the area to ensure that residents were comfortable with the church’s design.
“I have personally written or passed more legislation than Paul Vallone has as a volunteer or as a consultant to various elected officials,” Graziano said.
Graziano also said that his first piece of legislation in the council would be one that mirrors legislation put forward by Avella that would create an architectural design district to protect Broadway-Flushing—not a landmark designation, he said, but “much better” than the current status quo.