Tag Archives: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

The music scene in Queens


| editorial@queenscourier.com


By Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr.

So why was a councilmember asked to write about the music scene inQueens?

Little-known fact — upon graduating college, I had to make the tough decision between going to law school and signing a record contract and touring with my band. After a (short) conversation with my father, I went to Fordham Law, joined the ranks of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, practiced as a defense attorney and was elected to serve the great people ofAstoria.

Through the years, I’ve been fortunate to sit in with local bands and even organize some of my own gigs. To celebrate my recent birthday, I joined my family onstage for a medley of rock and old-time hits. Of course my mom on sax, daughter singing “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly on drums and father on cowbell were the breakout stars (see the video on YouTube or petervallone.com). The year before, I invited two local favorites — classic rock spewing “Spitfire” and Greek heavy metal band “Iskandar” — to perform at my summer kick-off party.

As much as I love to play, I’m no longer a match for our borough’s neither musical talent — nor can I keep up with every new band — so I turned to my friends in the district and Facebook for some suggestions. Here are a few:

One of the first people I happened to speak to is the mother of Nicole Mourelatos, a.k.a. Doris Cellar, anAstorianative, bassist for the hugely popular Freelance Whales, and an up-and-coming solo artist. When she’s not touring, Cellar rehearses at Astoria Sound Works and recently filmed two music videos on theQueensboroBridge. While we’re on the subject of Queens-native rock sensations,Lourds Lane’s critically acclaimed Chix 6 rock musical just completed a successful run at Queens Theatre and is slated to appear on Broadway next year.

Astoria Music and Arts, a non-profit created byAstorianative Justin Finley to promote local bands, venues and community events, is a great resource (astoriamusicandarts.com). Each summer they organize an awesome festival at Astoria Park featuring a wide range of local talent from the catchy tunes of the“Little Creatures” (who sound like they could be on an iPhone commercial) to the great ballads of the “Dirty Wings,” to heavy metal by “Sweet Magma,” and even “Rage Against the Machine”— like anti-establishment stuff from “Illimanjaro.”

To catch some of the great acts mentioned here or one of the many great local bands, stop by Gleason’s, Waltz Astoria, Shillelagh Tavern, the Woodhaven House and LIC Bar – to name a few.

I realize I’ve left out many great bands and locations, but while my space here is limited, the music options inQueensare definitely not. Keep the suggestions coming.

Hope to see you at the next show!

More housing coming to Astoria?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Halletts Point - Waterfront Park - by James Corner Field Operations

The proposed development of a rarely traversed section of Astoria may “point” to significant upgrades in amenities for the neighborhood.

The Lincoln Equities Group, a real estate company based in New Jersey, hopes to build seven residential towers, dubbed Hallets Point, a supermarket and a waterfront park along the East River.

Hallets Point, which would be near the Astoria Houses, would create roughly 2,200 units of housing. Approximately 1,800 of the units would be market rate, with 400 to 500 – or 20 percent – reserved for affordable housing.

The privately-financed project, which is expected to create 1,400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, has an estimated cost of over $1 billion.

“This project will bring much-needed economic development to a section of Queens that badly needs it and will incorporate things like a supermarket, affordable housing and new parkland to greatly improve the Hallets Point community,” said Andrew Moesel, a representative of the project. “Astoria Houses is a large development, but the peninsula itself is a collection of rundown warehouses and mechanical shops. There aren’t many things adding to the community, but this development, along with bringing new residents to the area, will bring the much needed amenities this community has not had for many years.”

The public review process for the project is expected to begin next year; however Hallets Point, which will offer panoramic views of northern Manhattan, has reportedly received mostly favorable reactions.

“I’m excited about the development, because I think it is long overdue and the area is most definitely in need of redressing,” said Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association. “This development will create a state of connection between the waterfront and the rest of western Queens. But I am most excited about the supermarket, because that has been an absentee in our community for over 25 years.”

Senator Michael Gianaris, who is “cautiously optimistic” about Hallets point, says his main concern is ensuring the transportation infrastructure of the neighborhood is able to sustain the additional residents.

According to the senator, shuttle bus service to the Astoria Boulevard subway station is among the proposed solutions to the increase in traffic.

“If done properly, this can be a development that benefits the entire community, while creating affordable housing, which is in desperate need,” said Gianaris. “But the devil is in the details, so I want make sure that as we go forward, all [the developer’s] promises are kept.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., whose father’s law firm is acting as a consultant to the developers, says the potential strain the buildings could place on community services has prevented him from fully committing to the project.

“I’m undecided at the moment,” said the councilmember, who claims every other elected official and community group has supported the project. “It has a lot of pros and a lot of cons. The pros are that it will bring needed development to an underserved area and will provide amenities, like a beautiful waterfront park. The cons are that there will be a very large series of buildings that will place a strain on the services to the community, like transportation and schools. It’s going to be such a neighborhood changer. Whatever ends up happening, a lot of people are going to be happy and almost as many people are going to be upset.”

Astoria pool set for rebirth


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Elected officials are diving right in to a project to repurpose a long-neglected pool in Astoria Park.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski announced plans to convert the dive pool at Astoria Park into an outdoor performance space, the first of its kind in the neighborhood.

“I’m especially proud to work with the Parks Department to turn what has become an eyesore into sorely-needed performance space,” said Vallone, who allocated $1 million for the project. “Some of the city’s brightest performers call Queens home, and they deserve one of the most beautiful locations in the city.  Nestled between the Hell Gate and Triborough Bridges with a view of the East River and the skyline at sunset, it will evoke the theaters of ancient Greek and Rome and will be truly majestic.”

The project will include pouring concrete into the pool, removing debris and existing small diving boards, creating seating areas, installing flooring, a new perimeter concrete walkway and tent canopy shade at the bleachers, among other improvements. The pool’s three-level diving board will remain and be refurbished.

Construction is tentatively set to begin in 2012, with possible completion coming in 2013.

“Astoria Park has long been one of Queens’ flagship recreational facilities, with opportunities for swimming, running, tennis and even skateboarding,” said Lewandowski. “Thanks to Councilmember Vallone’s generous allocation, we are now ‘diving’ into a new area of use – public performance space. This long unused space will be transformed to bring music, theater and more to residents of Astoria and the borough of Queens.”

Vallone is also providing $2 million for renovations to the Astoria Park pool rooftop and terrace and hopes to see a café-type concession there one day. Since taking office, he was instrumental in conceiving and funding Astoria Park’s state-of-the-art skate park.

Taryn Sacramone, executive director for the Astoria Performing Arts Center, said that the stage – in the center of one of the city’s most beautiful parks – will make the performing arts more accessible to the community.

“It will draw people to Astoria and provide artists with a unique space to share their talents,” she said. “The location is absolutely inspired and the possibilities are endless. Astoria will be much richer for it.”

Taminent Club celebrates 80 years


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo

Members of the Taminent Democratic Club, a political organization that supports local government, gathered at Riccardo’s by the Bridge in Astoria on November 5 for their 80thannual dinner dance. Several members of the Taminent Democratic Club received awards, including Linda Perno for “Woman of the Year” and Jeffery Sandhaus M.D. for “Man of the Year.” Dolores DeCrescenzo and Patrick Dolan won the Gloria D’Amico and the Ralph DeMarco Awards, respectively.

Perno is a member of the Astoria Kiwanis and serves on the Board of Directors for the Astoria Civic Association. Sandhaus is the Chief of Urology at Mount Sinai Queens. DeCrescenzo last served as the Deputy City Clerk of Bronx County, and Dolan is the President of the Steamfitters Local Union 638.

Also in attendance were local government officials such as District Attorney Richard A. Brown, City Comptroller John Liu and State Senator Michael Gianaris.

Taminent District Leader and former State Senator George Onorato spoke briefly. Afterwards, a surprise cake was revealed in honor of his birthday.

Queens Veterans Day Parade honors those who served


| rcasiano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo. The third annual Queens Veterans Day Parade drew 800 local veterans and their supporters to Middle Village this past weekend.

The third annual Queens Veterans Day Parade drew 800 local veterans and their supporters to Middle Village this past weekend to honor those who served in the Vietnam War.

Veterans from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32 and the North Shore Marine Corps League were joined by several community leaders and organizations on Sunday, November 6 for a parade and ceremony at Christ the King High School.

During the only Veterans Day parade in Queens, the community cheered on their Vietnam War vets, some of whom recall the criticism at home for serving in the then very unpopular war.

“It was great to be appreciated, but look how long it took,” said Pastor Toro, Jr., of Ridgewood, who was honored as one of the Grand Marshalls and is the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32. “I am standing up here for all the Vietnam War veterans. We have their backs.”

The ceremony capped the afternoon parade that had various groups march 10 blocks from Metropolitan Avenue and 79th Place to the high school.

School groups such as the Sunnyside Drum Corp. and the Sacred Heart Twirlers and many more supporters joined the Queens veteran groups as they marched. Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Peter Vallone Jr. were also on hand to salute the veterans at the parade.

David Hills, a Marine from Forest Hills, stood on the sidelines with his wife, cheering on the classic cars, bag pipe music and his comrades who marched in the parade.

“It’s the biggest parade I’ve ever seen. It’s very nice,” said Hills, who is a member of the North Shore Marine Corps. As he watched, a committee member thanked him for his service with a handshake.

“It’s terrific,” he said of the acknowledgment. “We really appreciate it when they say that.”

The annual Queens Veterans Day Parade started three years ago out of a need from the community to salute their troops closer to home.

The parade was sponsored by the Catholic War Veterans Post 1172, Middle Village Chamber of Commerce and the Middle Village Property Owners and Residents Association.

Astoria construction project draws community ire


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Astoria’s community leaders are outraged over a 50-unit condominium development for mentally challenged, homeless people that is currently being constructed in the area.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has campaigned against the project, which is located at 27th Avenue and 2nd Street, since it was initially proposed in 2008.

“For years I have advocated for better resources in this community,” said Vallone. “A supermarket, grocery store, bank or even book store would have been appropriate and helpful. We can’t sustain the additional strain of a 50-unit development for homeless people with special needs. Astoria’s waterfront is one of the most beautiful stretches in the five boroughs. We should be helping our existing residents with more facilities rather than using state funds for a new development that will only hinder the community.”

The condominium project is being developed by Urban Pathways, an organization aimed at providing homeless New Yorkers with the assistance necessary to become stable and move into permanent housing.

Vallone believes that the project’s location contradicts Urban Pathways’ objectives due to the lack of services available in the surrounding community, which the councilmember calls “largely underdeveloped” and “an isolated area.”

Repeated calls to Urban Pathways went unreturned as of press time.

Community Board 1, which represents Astoria, voted against the project on December 16, 2008.

“The immediate community is lacking the necessary services to accommodate the new residents,” said Lucille Hartmann, district manager of Community Board 1. “Currently, the community supports Goodwill Industries, which is about one block east of the new development and contains 202 units for approximately 350 residents. The New York City Housing Authority is also across the street from the development and they house approximately 8,000 residents. The amenities available to the community, such as affordable supermarkets, banks and hospitals, are a minimum of a mile away. Public transportation is also very limited, with only buses.”

Vallone claims that “every community group in Astoria opposes” the plan. He also says that he has made numerous efforts to negotiate with the developers, but that his requests have fallen on deaf ears.

“As the state prepares for massive layoffs, millions of dollars are now being used for an unwanted project in a struggling neighborhood,” Vallone said. “We attempted to discuss a compromise with them – a 15-person community-living residence similar to those that exist everywhere else in Queens – but the state refused to even respond.”

The councilmember estimates that the monetary difference between a 15-person and 50-person development could be as high as $20 million in state funds.

The New York State Office of Mental Health declined to comment regarding the project.

Members of the community appear divided on the issue, with some insisting their neighborhood is not the appropriate setting for the development.

“I’m not happy about it,” said Vanessa Finch, a 40-year-old resident of Astoria Houses, which is located directly across the street from the site. “Nobody is happy to have that in their neighborhood, but what can we do?”

Others appear more accepting of the project and hope the center will help the less fortunate by providing them with shelter.

“We are all humans,” said 25-year-old Alan Hughes, another resident of Astoria Houses. “Everyone has to have a place to live. Who are we to say they can’t live here?”

Additional reporting by Alana Manning.