Tag Archives: Councilman Paul Vallone

Councilman Vallone to introduce legislation for no-fly zone for drones


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wiki Commons

City Councilman Paul Vallone is calling for a no-fly zone for unmanned aircraft, or drones, over New York City.

Vallone, with the support of nine other council members, will introduce a bill on Wednesday that would empower local authorities to better enforce the Federal Aviation Authority Law regarding drones.

The bill, among other things, would make it a violation for drone operators to fly above four hundred feet in the air or out of the operator’s line of sight and to come within five miles of airports.

“Drone technology is rapidly advancing and quickly becoming more available and affordable,” Vallone said. “New York City can regulate drones now without waiting for the FAA to update federal regulations or for a tragedy to happen.”

Vallone worked with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to write the legislation. The city currently has little guidance on how to enforce the relatively new trend of flying drones around the city for recreation. If the bill is passed, city authorities would have a clear set of guidelines to enforce the rules.

Vallone began drafting the bill in July after two drones were seen flying near the George Washington Bridge, an act that would be a violation under Vallone’s  bill, if it is enacted into law.

“I believe that this bill takes a pragmatic and comprehensive approach to regulating unmanned aerial vehicles and will ultimately make our city safer,” Vallone said.

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Bayside no longer under consideration for homeless shelter site


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Potential plans to create an emergency homeless shelter in Bayside have been scrapped after a month of deliberations.

In late October, the Department of Homeless Services looked into Bayside as a possible candidate to host a homeless shelter. But, according to Councilman Paul Vallone, those plans have since been removed.

After hearing about the potential shelter last month, Vallone wrote a letter to the agency in which he asserted his belief that Bayside was not a good site for a shelter because of a lack of transportation and the residential nature of the area.

“I thank the Department of Homeless Services for listening to our concerns,” Vallone said, “and deciding to abandon plans for an emergency shelter in Bayside. As I’ve said before, my district not only has the lowest population of homeless persons in the whole city, but Bayside in particular lacks the infrastructure and public transportation options to support an emergency shelter. I’m glad that the DHS considered these obstacles and concerns and came to agree that Bayside is an inappropriate location.”

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Bayside could be site of new homeless shelter


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Thursday, Oct.23

The Department of Homeless Services is considering putting an emergency homeless shelter in Bayside, but before plans are even set, there is already opposition.

There are currently no concrete details in place, and the agency said it hasn’t specified where in Bayside such a shelter would go. But they said that “at this time” there are currently no plans for a shelter in Bayside.

The spokesman added, “However, as the agency sheltering New York’s most vulnerable, it is our hope that communities across the city can find compassion to help and embrace these New Yorkers as they are rebuild their lives so they can soon contribute to a stronger New York from which we can all benefit.”

After hearing about the potential shelter, Councilman Paul Vallone voiced his disapproval.

“Of all the places to target for an emergency homeless shelter, Bayside, one of the most residential neighborhoods in New York City with an extreme lack of public transportation options, is not even remotely appropriate,” he said.

Vallone wrote a letter to the Department of Homeless Services in an attempt to stop the shelter before the city makes a final decision.

“As we’ve seen time and time again, a lack of community involvement, input or dialogue with civic leaders and not offering alternative sites clearly shows a complete disregard for the effect on our community,” Vallone said. “So to make it very clear, I am against this and our community is against this, and we will not sit idly by while the DHS makes their determination.”

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Douglaston plaza opens near LIRR station


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Paul Vallone's office

The Douglaston pedestrian plaza has opened to the public.

The completion of the project, near the LIRR station on 41st Avenue, was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday with Councilman Paul Vallone and the Douglaston Local Development Corporation (LDC).

“I am thrilled that this plaza will provide a great place for my constituents to sit, socialize and enjoy life. And I look forward to seeing the local businesses flourish with increased foot traffic,” Vallone said.

The plaza eliminates about seven parking spaces but there will now be 3,000 square feet of public space with new crosswalks, plants, umbrellas with movable tables and chairs, and granite blocks.

Plans for the area were approved in July by Community Board 11, according to earlier reports. The LDC is charged with maintaining the new plaza, and they plan to do so through fundraisers and private donations.

The LDC contacted the Department of Transportation last year for the street plaza, hoping that it would revitalize the businesses in the community by giving pedestrians a place to walk and rest while shopping and eating.

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Bayside’s ‘unofficial mayor’ to be memorialized in street renaming


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Bayside’s “unofficial mayor” Benjamin Fried will be memorialized next Monday during a street renaming ceremony, according to Councilman Paul Vallone.

For 68 years Fried was a part of Bell Boulevard and now he will be a permanent part of the strip.

Vallone’s spokesman said that Fried, who died at the age of 98 last year, contributed to the healthy mix of commercial and residential areas in the neighborhood.

The city is designating 43rd Avenue and Bell Boulevard — at the corner where Fried kept shop for 68 years until 2001 — as Benjamin Fried Boulevard on Aug. 25.

Fried’s civic life began in 1933 when he opened Benn’s Bargain Store — later renamed to Benn’s Hardware — on Bell Boulevard and he would eventually become active in many parts of Bayside. Along with his hardware store, Fried was also a local activist, according to Vallone’s spokesman. Fried led a succesful rally in the 1970s to reopen fire department engine company 306 on 214th Place.

“Benjamin Fried was affectionately known as the mayor of Bayside and for good reason. His life was spent advocating for Bayside, his community, family and friends,” Vallone said. “Now as we co-name 43rd Avenue as Benjamin Fried Boulevard, we will always keep his memory alive.”

Fried founded the Bell Boulevard Merchants Association and started the annual Children’s Holiday Parade. These all led to his unofficial mayor title, with his hardware business serving as the unofficial city hall.

“The Fried family made sure Bell Boulevard remained a huge commercial shopping destination,” a spokesman for the Bayside Business Improvement District said. “They’re able to perform this balancing act of making it a great commercial destination without overpowering the residential side [of the neighborhood].”

 

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CM Vallone to announce $1M allocation for Bay Terrace library upgrades


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library


The Queens Library’s Bay Terrace branch is set for a makeover.

The library will see interior renovations and technology upgrades thanks to a $1 million allocation by Councilman Paul Vallone.

Vallone plans to officially announce the funding on Monday, when he’ll be joined by community leaders and residents for a visioning session. During that time, a Queens Library representative will highlight recent upgrades to other modern branches and children from a Bay Terrace library program will have the opportunity to draw what they think the branch should look like.

“I was overwhelmed by the state of neglect and lack of financial support that my district’s libraries have suffered through for years,” Vallone said. “My funding allocation will go a long way to improve and modernize the Bay Terrace Library so that the community can enjoy it for years to come.”

 

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CM Vallone wins bet against CM Vacca over youth baseball game


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilman Paul Vallone


The Whitestone Renegades’ 4-3 victory against Bronxchester on July 17 meant more than just another win.

The Renegades also helped Councilman Paul Vallone enjoy authentic Italian pastries on Thursday courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Vacca of the Bronx, due to a friendly wager between the two public officials on the game. Of course, the Renegades, a local travel baseball team out of the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League, are now also entitled to bragging rights over their Bronx rivals.

“We would like to thank Councilman Paul Vallone for all his support to the team,” said Renegades assistant coach Joe Alessandro. “And congratulate the councilman on winning his friendly wager with Councilman Vacca.”

When the council members learned that their local baseball teams would play each other in the inaugural NYC Borough Cup tournament, they decided to increase the stakes of the game.

The terms were, if the Renegades won, Vacca would treat Vallone to homemade Italian pastries from Arthur Avenue, which is known as the Bronx’s Little Italy. But if Bronxchester won, then Vallone would treat Vacca to a chicken sandwich from Whitestone staple deli Cherry Valley and an Italian ice from Pesso’s in Bayside.

Vallone said the only downside of winning was that now Vacca will miss out on delicious foods from the Queens eatery and dessert shop.

“While of course I am thrilled that the Whitestone Renegades beat Bronxchester, I’m sad that Jimmy won’t have the opportunity to experience the culinary masterpiece that is a Cherry Valley TCS (The Chicken Sandwich) washed down with a mouthwatering Pesso’s Ice,” Vallone said.

While the Italian desserts were sweet, the story didn’t have a satisfying ending. The Renegades finished 2-1 in the Borough Cup, having dropped their last match in pool play against the NCYA All Stars, 6-1, and were eliminated from the tournament.

 

 

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Bayside BID envisions innovative parking garage for municipal lot expansion


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Rauch Foundation


Some modern parking lots aren’t just places to park.

Scattered around the country and even in this state, there are eye-pleasing, sleek parking structures with cool lighting and sometimes pro-green features that double as event spaces or commercial and residential mixed-use facilities.

The trend is to avoid the architectural tragedy that is a looming concrete box, for an artsy, efficient structure that solves parking issues and attracts people. Officials from the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), which plans to conduct a feasibility study to expand the Bayside municipal lot on 41st Avenue, are hoping to erect a forward-thinking innovative garage that people want to park in and be in, they explained in an annual meeting on Monday.

“What’s cool about this juncture for Bayside is there are endless possibilities,” said Jocelyn Wenk of the Long Island think tank Rauch Foundation, which has been researching ways to improve main streets in communities through modern parking garages with its Build a Better Burb website.

Wenk, the site’s editor, explained their results at the BID’s meeting, which highlighted colorful renderings from around the globe of flamboyant parking structures and some that seamlessly blend with nearby residential designs. The optimistic presentation gained excited “oohs and aahs” from the crowd of local residents and leaders, followed by skeptically inquiries.

“What they could put on there is interesting,” said Christine Haider, chair of Community Board 11. “I wish them luck.”
Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $20,000 toward the upcoming feasibility study, which will examine costs and other difficulties with expanding the lot in addition to its design.

At this point, BID members can’t definitively say what can be done with the space, which sits a block from Bell Boulevard on 214th Place. And while they believe it should be revolutionary to help draw business, they recognize obvious limits.

“You’re not going to put a structure that belongs in Las Vegas there,” BID Chair Dominick Bruccoleri said. “A project like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to do.”

 

 

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City Council announces restoration of Peter Vallone Sr. namesake scholarship


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy office of Councilman Paul Vallone

“The original Dream Act” — as some call it — is alive.

Thousands of eligible high school students across the city will once again be able to enjoy the rewards of a college scholarship, regardless of immigration status.

Officials announced Tuesday the City Council Merit Based Scholarship, once named after former Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., was restored after it was voted into the budget of the City Council for $11.1 million.

The scholarship was originally slashed in 2011 by former Speaker Christine Quinn after reported political infighting with former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

The reinstated scholarship will help aid 13,500 students as early as this fall who maintain at least a B average and seek to attend a City University of New York (CUNY) institution. It offers about $400 per semester for each recipient.

“By restoring the City Council CUNY Merit Based Scholarship, we have once again issued a challenge to every student in New York City,” said Councilman Paul Vallone, son of the former speaker. “If you make the commitment to be the best student you can be, then we will stand with you as we open the doors to a college education together.”

 

 

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$2.45M upgrade set for Flushing’s troubled Bowne Park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


After years of issues with garbage, dead wildlife and a lack of maintenance in Bowne Park, the green space in Flushing is set to receive a $2.45 million facelift.

Councilman Paul Vallone, whose district oversees the park, allocated $1.45 million in discretionary funds to upgrade the water fountains and filtration system in the pond of the nearly 12-acre park.

Residents complained in the past of the grimy pond, in which dead turtles reportedly have been found. The funds will also go to restore the asphalt pathways and lawn areas.

Borough President Melinda Katz will allocate an additional $1 million from her budget to the park to upgrade the playground, installing new play equipment with safety surfaces and benches.

“$2.45 million dollars will go a long way to restoring the natural resources of our precious park for wildlife, residents and neighborhood children alike,” said Robert Hanophy Jr., president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association.

Bowne Park is named for Walter Bowne, a New York City mayor in the 19th century, whose house stood on the land until 1925 when a fire destroyed the residence, according to the Parks Department.

The park is usually teeming with wildlife, including turtles, squirrels and various species of birds. Besides the pond, the park features two bocce courts, a basketball court and a playground with a sprinkler.

The revitalization of the park comes after a major project last year, in which the existing bocce court was renovated and a second court was added at the total cost of about $500,000. In 1994 the park underwent an $800,000 renovation, funded out of the budget of then Borough President Claire Schulman.

“Bowne Park has become an essential symbol of the quiet residential homes that surround the park,” Vallone said. “We promised to preserve the quality of life we cherish here in our communities and preserving and improving Bowne Park for decades to come is a testament to that promise.”

 

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Bayside BID to study DOT lot expansion to solve community parking woes


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Building up may be the best way to build up Bayside businesses, and Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $20,000 for a study to solve the parking problem near Bell Boulevard, which many residents and business owners say is the No. 1 issue in the community.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), which supports hundreds of businesses along Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue with sanitation, event planning and marketing services, requested the funding to conduct a feasibility study to build a multilevel parking lot. The parking structure would expand the current Department of Transportation (DOT) municipal lot on 214th Place and 41st Avenue.

“It is no secret that the popularity of this commercial hub makes parking difficult for those commuting via the Long Island Railroad and customers frequenting stores,” Vallone said. “Potentially expanding the municipal parking lot on 41st Avenue could greatly alleviate parking concerns and ensure continued success for the businesses that call Bell Boulevard home. This study is a step in that direction.”

A representative of the BID said the feasibility study will identify and estimate costs to expand the lot, examine financial impacts on the neighborhood, analyze the supply and demand for spaces, and determine possible mixed-use options for the new structure. The lot may expand up, but representatives aren’t sure how many levels at this moment.

Currently, the parking lot has dozens of spaces, but residents and business owners say it’s usually filled.

“You can’t find a [parking spot] there on nights and on weekends,” said John Bonavita, co-owner of Fiamma 41, a restaurant that opened eight months ago on 41st Avenue between Bell Boulevard and 214th Place. Bonavita said that the restaurant added valet parking on weekends specifically to counter complaints about the lack of parking.

“The fact that they would add parking would be a plus for the boulevard,” he said. “I lose a lot of business because people say they can’t find parking.”

 

 

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Street co-named for longtime Bayside school teacher


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Paul Vallone


Family, friends and former students of longtime P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi attended a street co-naming in her honor outside the Bayside school on Friday.

The new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place street sign was unveiled at 214th Lane behind the school. Cilmi, who died in 2011 after battling cancer for four years, taught at the school for about 25 years and was a teacher in city schools for about four decades.

During her time at P.S. 41 she was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden, was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA), and made various science presentations for children.

Photo courtesy Tom Cilmi

Cilmi lived in Flushing with her husband, Tom, and her son. Various elected officials, including Councilmember Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng, were in attendance for the street co-naming ceremony.

“Mrs. Cilmi’s life was dedicated to teaching and showing her students that science was beyond the classroom,” Vallone said. “To co-name the street in front of the school where she spent over a decade is a fitting tribute to her career and tells the community Mrs. Cilmi will forever be in our hearts.”

 

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Flushing dance studio to celebrate 50th anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


The Mildred Scilla School of Dance hasn’t lost a step in half a century.

The Flushing studio on 164th Street will turn 50 years old this September and it continues to be a staple in the neighborhood, which has changed greatly during the last half-century.

The school currently has nearly 200 students, and Councilman Paul Vallone recently presented the studio with a citation honoring the upcoming anniversary.

“We represent quality, professionalism, nurturing and caring, and it’s been received that way from the community,” said owner Gary Gendell. “We still enjoy what we are doing. It’s not a business. It’s a way for us to give back to the community based on our backgrounds.”

Mildred Scilla, a member of The Rockettes in the 1940s and 1950s, opened the studio in her Flushing basement in 1964 to teach dance to children in the neighborhood. Her own children grew up learning to dance in the studio as well.

Photo courtesy Sandy Gendell

“We knew everybody in the neighborhood. All the neighborhood kids came to our house,” said Sandy Gendell, Scilla’s daughter. “There was always a lot going on. It was a lot of fun for us.”

Scilla moved the studio to its current location in 1974 after the studio gained popularity. When she died in 1998, Sandy took control of the dance school with Gary. They believe the studio’s tradition and their individual performance experience has helped it thrive.

Sandy followed in her mother’s footsteps and joined The Rockettes in 1970. She performed in the famous shows in Radio City Music Hall until 1978. Gary, meanwhile, acted on Broadway in the original productions of Annie and Chicago, and he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show as a dancer in the early ‘70s.

The pair said embracing the diversity that has come to Flushing through the 50 years has also played a major role and helped them grow with the neighborhood.

“As the neighborhood changes you have to change with it,” Sandy said. “We’re probably the last original people on this block.”

 

 

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Street to be co-named for Bayside teacher who died from cancer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Former P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi’s motto to her students in the Bayside school was “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

So when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, instead of fretting about it, Cilmi took all the necessary treatment and fought the disease with a smile, her husband, Tom, said.

“She was fantastic,” he said. “[Doctors] were amazed at her attitude and everything was just hunky-dory.”

But the cancer attacked strong in 2011 and Cilmi, a mother of one and beloved public school teacher of four decades, died that May. To honor her memory and achievements, a former student, Thomas Fennell, requested a street be co-named and Community Board 11 approved it. Family and friends will gather on June 20 as Councilman Paul Vallone unveils the new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place at 214th Lane behind the school.

Cilmi began teaching in 1967 as a substitute teacher in Brooklyn elementary schools. When she shifted to P.S. 41 in 1989 she became a full-time science teacher. She retired in 2008.

Photo courtesy Thomas Cilmi 

During her time at P.S. 41, Cilmi was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden. She was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA) and made various science presentations for children.

“She was one of those people that were a natural teacher,” said second grade teacher Diane DiBlasi, who worked with Cilmi at P.S. 41 for two decades. “She opened up the world to so many children in a positive way.”

Outside of teaching, Cilmi was a bright woman who loved to dance and a devoted mother who raised her son to be a Harvard University-educated doctor. She listened to The Beatles and Elvis Presley, and loved to draw. Cilmi desired to write a children’s book, but never had the chance.

Tom will be present at the ceremony and believes his wife deserves the honor.

“It gives me the feeling that she really accomplished something,” he said. “She touched a lot of people and an awful lot of children.”

 

 

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Whitestone Bridge art contest winners announced


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre/Drawings courtesy of Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association.


 

 

The winners of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association’s Bronx-Whitestone Bridge drawing contest were announced and honored in Councilman Paul Vallone’s office Monday.

More than 300 elementary students entered the art competition, which honored the 75th anniversary of the bridge, but only five were selected as winners.

P.S. 79 fourth-graders Athena Koutsothanasis, Mei Jiang and Joanna Li were winners, as well as P.S. 193 fifth-grader Nicholas Berry and Ellie Choe of P.S. 209.

“It was kind of scary, because I didn’t know if I would get it,” Nicholas said about the contest. “I was really surprised that I was able to win.”

The art competition challenged Whitestone elementary schools students to draw — in any form — a version of the bridge on an 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper. They also had to include a reference to the 75th anniversary in their artwork.

Each winner received a City Council citation from Vallone, a $50 check from Welcome to Whitestone and a $10 gift card from Dunkin’ Donuts.

The winners were judged by Devon Michael O’Connor, founder of Welcome to Whitestone, MTA’s Director of Bridges East Raymond Webb and Vallone.

All of the entries in the contest will be on display in the Queens Library’s Whitestone Branch for the public to view.

 

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