19th Council Race Asks Who's More Local?
Thursday, September 03, 2009
The candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in the 19th City Council district in Northeast Queens all want to be seen as good neighbors. But some claim they have stronger ties to the district than others.
Paul Vallone, in particular, has had to answer questions about his loyalty to the 19th. Vallone is the youngest son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who represented Astoria and was succeeded by his oldest son, Peter Jr. The family has a law firm in Astoria, too, where Paul Vallone works. And though Paul Vallone has lived in North Flushing since 1994, opponents Jerry Iannece and Steve Behar have seized on a news report that he didn't vote in the District until 2005. Iannece, who chairs Community Board 11, portrays Vallone as a newcomer who's never solved an issue or addressed a problem and refers to the Vallones as "Astoria people, not Bayside people."
Vallone dismisses that, saying "If there's an advantage coming from a family that has done nothing but community service I'll take that advantage. It truly is a blessing." He acknowledges he didn't get around to switching his voter registration from Astoria to North Flushing for several years. But he says he was preoccupied when his young daughter required serious surgery. He also claims his commitment to the district is evident in the work he's done with a variety of local civic groups.
Iannece has also questioned opponent Kevin Kim's ties to the district. Though Kim grew up in Bayside, he moved away for college and law school and eventually made his way to the neighboring council district in Flushing while working for Congressman Gary Ackerman. He now lives with his wife in Bay Terrace.
"He's never voted in the district," says Iannece. "I think it was more of a conscious effort to move to an area that he thought it would be fruitful to run. Nice guy, don't get me wrong, very nice guy, but he never voted in the district."
Kim notes that Flushing is just next door. He also takes offense when an opponent puts down the work of other candidates. "I don't think there's any one way to serve the community," he says. "We should be appreciative of everybody who's willing to work."