Tag Archives: John Duane

Graziano crosses lines, endorses Republican candidate Saffran in District 19 race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

That’s the proverbial message a northeast Queens Democrat is sending by crossing party lines to endorse the Republican candidate over the one who beat him at the polls last month.

Paul Graziano, who came in third in the Democratic primary for District 19 to Paul Vallone, publicly endorsed Vallone’s general election opponent, Dennis Saffran, on Tuesday.

“Voting for the best person in the race is more important than voting for your party,” Graziano said.

The Flushing urban planner said the decision was not made lightly, but the move is not entirely surprising to spectators of the closely watched contest.

Graziano had slammed Vallone multiple times in forums for being a registered lobbyist. He was also one of three primary foes targeted in accusatory hit pieces paid for by a political action committee called Jobs for New York, which endorsed Vallone.

The fuming trio, who included Chrissy Voskerichian and Austin Shafran, took turns grilling Vallone during a televised debate and at a press conference they held to call on him to denounce the mailers.

“During the campaign, Paul Vallone refused to take responsibility for any of these acts,” Graziano said.

“We’ve had four years of not having an adult in the room,” Graziano added, referring to the sitting but scandal-scarred incumbent, Councilmember Dan Halloran. “To me, this is just a continuation, if not worse.”

Runner-up Shafran, who narrowly lost by less than 200 votes, said he would not support either candidate. Voskerichian said she would not endorse Vallone and was not endorsing Saffran at this time.

Vallone did get the backing of John Duane, however, who finished second to last. Duane was not attacked in the mailers but had a hand in calling Vallone out for them.

The endorsement was not public and Duane did not give a reason for it.

“Whatever differences Paul [Graziano] and I have is pale next to our differences with Paul Vallone,” Saffran said.

Vallone’s campaign fired back, saying Saffran “has been missing in action in this community for over a decade.”

“That probably explains why the leaders we know and trust have endorsed Paul Vallone, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the United Federation of Teachers and countless others,” said Vallone spokesperson Austin Finan.

Vallone and Saffran will face off on November 5.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Primary guide: City Council District 19


| editorial@queenscourier.com

19

As the clock ticks closer to city primaries on Tuesday, September 10, The Courier would like to provide you, the reader and the voter, with a fair, detailed guide of who is running. Here is a list of the candidates in City Council District 19 (College Point, Auburndale-Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston and Little Neck), who they are, what they stand for and what they want to continue to do if they go on to the general election in November.

Name: John Duane

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Father, consumer advocate, attorney

Personal Info: John Duane was born and raised in northeast Queens, where he also raised his three children and has lived his whole life. He knows better than anyone the issues facing the community. As a state assemblymember, Duane wrote 22 bills that became law, including the Vietnam Veterans Tuition Assistance Law. As an assistant attorney general, he took on ConEd and won $30 million in refunds for taxpayers. In his law practice, Duane fights deceptive credit counselors and has won $250 million in judgments for victims of fraud.

Issues/Platforms: Duane knows that a government cannot function properly without the trust and involvement of its citizenry. He will be a full-time city councilmember and has proposed a comprehensive “Integrity Plan” to regain public trust that includes full-transparency and creating a discretionary spending oversight board. Duane’s other priorities include fighting overdevelopment and keeping small businesses thriving by not letting the city target them unfairly as a source of revenue. Duane will use his office to improve public education and increase parental involvement in our schools. He has also made providing services to our seniors and veterans a top priority.

Name: Paul Graziano

Party:  Democrat

Current Occupation:  Urban planning/historic preservation consultant

Personal Info: Graziano, 42, is a lifelong resident of North Flushing and the son of two CUNY professors. Educated at P.S. 21, I.S. 227, Bronx H.S.  of Science, University of Massachusetts-Amherst (BA-Comparative Literature) and Hunter College (MS-Urban Affairs), he is marrying his fiancée, Elzbieta, in September.

Issues/Platforms: For two decades, Graziano has tirelessly protected the 19th Council District from overdevelopment, including successfully downzoning every neighborhood; creating the R2A “anti-McMansion” zone; placing 1,330 buildings in Broadway-Flushing on the National Register of Historic Places; getting Douglaston Hill and the Schleicher and Ginsburg mansions landmark designation; and helping win the fight to turn Fort Totten into a public park and historic district when it was slated to be sold to developers.

Graziano’s work also focuses on education reforms, including ending mayoral control of the Department of Education, replacing top-down “Teaching to the Test” decision-making with local teachers and parents deciding their children’s future; reinstituting art, music, after-school activities and tutoring; protesting against the DOE’s proposed school facility at Keil Brother’s on 48th Avenue in July; and standing in solidarity with teachers, parents and students against an abusive principal at P.S. 29 in August.

Name: Austin Shafran

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Full-time candidate for City Council

Personal Info: Austin Shafran was born and raised in Bayside, where committed to public service, he worked tirelessly for CongressmemberGary Ackerman and then for Governor Andrew Cuomo to deliver a better and brighter future for the northeast Queens neighborhoods he is proud to call home. Whether it was playing for award-winning local little leagues or helping countless families access vital services, Shafran’s connection and commitment to his neighborhoods is deep and sincere. He said he would fight harder than anyone to clean up corruption, give schools the support they need, and make sure families and seniors can afford to stay in our neighborhoods.

Issues/Platforms: As councilmember, Shafran will cut property taxes and water rates for homeowners, co-ops and condo owners and reduce income taxes for middle class families; provide more funding for senior services; improve schools by reducing class sizes, stop high-stakes testing and increase input for parents and educators; crack down on unscrupulous developers threatening neighborhoods and ban outside employment for councilmembers to stand up to the special interests and put our community first.

Name: Paul Vallone

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Attorney

Personal Info: Paul Vallone is the managing partner of the family law firm of Vallone & Vallone. He currently serves as president of the Clinton Democratic Club, immediate past president and founding member of the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club and board member of Community Board 7. Vallone also serves as counsel and board member to the Auburndale Soccer Club and was previously appointed to serve as a board member to the New York City Board of Corrections. Vallone and his wife, Anna-Marie, live in Flushing with their three children Catena, Lea and Charlie.

Issues/Platforms: Vallone is running to restore honest and effective Democratic leadership to the 19th City Council seat. His top priorities include putting more cops on the street, standing with other small business owners against unfair regulations and crushing fines, keeping schools the best in the city, preserving the residential character of neighborhoods, combating the incessant airplane noise pollution plaguing neighborhoods and ensuring that northeast Queens finally gets its fair share from City Hall. Vallone has been endorsed by the Queens County Democratic Party, Congressmember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, Senator Toby Stavisky, Assemblymember Ron Kim, Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz and former City Council Candidates Kevin Kim and Jerry Iannece.

Name: Chrissy Voskerichian

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Civic leader, 109th  Precinct Council President

Personal Info: Voskerichian started working when she was just 16 years old. She moved through the ranks of the telecommunications industry, retiring after 31 years as director of Global Sales & Operations for one of the largest firms in the world to focus more on her neighborhood. She founded the Station Road Civic Association and in 2009 was elected president of the 109th Precinct Community Council where she has worked hard to create a partnership between the NYPD and the community. She served as chief of staff for the District 19 City Council office.

Issues/Platforms: Voskerichian’s main priority is to protect the quality of life in northeast Queens and ensure that public safety is never compromised. She believes the city must give police officers and firefighters the tools they need to do their jobs. Voskerichian also stresses the need to support teachers by building new schools to reduce class sizes and giving kids a head start with free Universal Pre-K for every child. Finally, she promises to make constituent services a focus of her office. She will use her knowledge and experience to have a fully functional office capable of helping everyone and improving the community she calls home.

 

MORE PRIMARY GUIDES

 

PAC attacks City Council candidates in District 19 race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Three City Council candidates who recently had their faces plastered on smear mailers are calling for an end to “one of the worst mudslinging campaigns” the district has ever seen.

“I am very disappointed and saddened by the false attacks which have been made on the personal character of the candidates,” said Chrissy Voskerichian. “False accusations and outright lies have no place in what should be a spirited, focused and honest campaign.”

Voskerichian, Austin Shafran and Paul Graziano have been targeted in at least five hit pieces this month which were paid for by a political action committee (PAC) called Jobs for New York.

They are running against two other Democrats in a primary for the District 19th seat currently held by indicted Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran.

John Duane has not yet been mentioned by the PAC and Paul Vallone has been endorsed by them.

Graziano, in the latest mailer, is seen engulfed in flames under a headline that reads “Let’s not get burned by Paul Graziano.”

The urban planner is accused of saying in 2006 he would “take advantage of racial strife in the community” and is called “an embarrassment” in another flyer.

“It’s really an outrageous situation,” said Graziano, who also called the hit pieces “amusing” and “ridiculous.”

Voskerichian, who served as Halloran’s chief of staff for three years, is labeled “the captain” of the scandal-scarred politician’s “sinking, corrupt ship.”

Shafran, the Senate Democrats spokesperson in 2010, is blasted for “staunchly defending” State Senator Malcolm Smith, who allegedly conspired with Halloran and GOP leaders to run for mayor on the Republican line.

The four candidates called for Vallone to put an end to the negative campaigning — “the worst” the district has seen, according to State Senator Tony Avella, who used to be the area’s councilmember.

“I consider Paul Vallone a friend, and I know he’s better than this,” Duane said. “It’s time for him to stand up and do the right thing by publicly repudiating this insidious, negative campaign that is being perpetrated on his behalf.”

The PAC, headed by the Real Estate Board of New York, spent $113,134 on Vallone’s campaign, according to The Real Deal.

Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Vallone’s campaign, said candidates, by law, have no control over outside spending.

PACs can spend as much money as they want on behalf of candidates but cannot coordinate with them.

“Those opponents of Paul Vallone who repeatedly lie about these facts continue to demonstrate they lack the honesty and integrity to represent northeast Queens in the City Council,” Finan said.

The candidates, however, said Vallone is still tied to the tactics.

“Anyone who benefits from these reprehensible attacks and fails to denounce them is as bad as the people behind those attacks,” Shafran said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Candidates vie for votes in Councilmember Halloran’s district


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six candidates vying to replace scandal-scarred Councilmember Dan Halloran mapped out ways they would bring integrity back to the seat at a Flushing forum last week.

“There is such anger, and it’s justified,” said Paul Vallone at a forum hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “We need to reclaim our local council office. It’s been an embarrassment and it has hurt our entire district.”

Halloran pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges for his alleged hand in bribing GOP officials to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the Republican mayoral ticket.

He said he would not seek re-election this year, which leaves the District 19 seat open to be claimed by Chrissy Voskerichian, Austin Shafran, John Duane, Paul Graziano, Vallone or lone Republican contender Dennis Saffran.

Voskerichian, who quit her job as Halloran’s chief of staff shortly after his arrest, said she was “not going to apologize for being there.”

“I did work for Dan Halloran. I think I did a very good job,” she said. “I was disappointed and upset about what happened. If I didn’t have those three years in office, I probably would not be running for the city council today.”

Pitching ways to bring more transparency to the office, Shafran said councilmembers should ban outside employment and income, while Duane pledged to post all meetings on his website.

“You’re paying my salary. You’re the taxpayer,” Duane said. “You deserve to know exactly what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with.”

Graziano, who pushed for full public financial disclosures, said candidates should not accept money from real estate developers or lobbyists.

He, Voskerichian, Vallone and Shafran also want to eliminate the City Council Speaker’s power to allocate discretionary funds in order for each district to get its fair share.

“Discretionary funding should be per capita and not delivered by the Speaker as a favor or a reward for voting or not voting a certain way,” Voskerichian said.

Saffran said any legislator under indictment for public corruption should be suspended.

“Dan Halloran should not be receiving a public paycheck right now. It’s outrageous that he is,” he said.

Five of the six candidates then fielded preservation and storm readiness questions at a Bayside debate hosted by the Bayside Historical Society this week.

Most agreed the city should put power lines underground and do more to maintain older city trees that have become deadly.

Shafran said he supports requiring backup generators at gas stations and proposed mandating Con Ed to work with the city on storm plans.

Vallone, who did not show up, was comforting the family of his “good friend and mentor” Judge Joseph Risi, who had just passed away, a campaign spokesperson said.

His absence prompted contention from some of his rivals, who claimed he was dodging the debate purposefully due to a poor performance with the historic host group in 2009.

Graziano, at the end of the night, addressed the “deafening silence at the far end of the table” where Vallone’s namecard accompanied his empty seat.

“He didn’t have the courtesy to show up tonight,” Graziano said.

The candidates will debate for the last time before the September 10 primary at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center on August 27 at 7 p.m.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Race to replace embattled Councilmember Dan Halloran underway


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

The first Republican candidate has thrown his hat in the ring to replace federally-indicted Councilmember Dan Halloran.

Dennis Saffran, 57, said he is running in the 19th Council District to restore “the tradition of integrity and honesty in government.”

The attorney from Douglaston ran for the seat in 2001 and narrowly lost to then-Councilmember Tony Avella.

“I’m the strongest Republican candidate,” Saffran said. “I have a record of citywide and community involvement.

I’ve been active in issues that turned New York City around.”

Saffran is the vice president of the Douglaston Civic Association and works for the Nassau County Attorney’s office.

Halloran faces conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud charges over allegations he helped State Senator Malcolm Smith try to buy his way to the Republican mayoral nomination. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged a number of other state and city officials in the case as well.

“He and I have never seen eye to eye on a lot of issues,” Saffran said of Halloran. “Given his arrest and indictment, he’s presumably not running, as far as I know. Nobody’s going to support him if he does. There’s essentially an open council seat.”

There are also reports a former election foe of Halloran will seek his council spot. All City Council seats along with the mayor’s office will be on the ballot in November. Halloran’s office could be up for special election before then, although Halloran has made no indication he will resign.

The Korea Daily reports Democrat Kevin Kim, who lost a 2009 bid for the district seat to Halloran, has been mulling a run.

Insiders say Republican Rudy S. Giuliani, second cousin to ex-mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and current chief of staff to Councilmember Eric Ulrich, might also be a candidate. Neither he nor Kim have made any official announcements about Halloran’s seat.

Democratic candidates who announced bids for Halloran’s seat prior to his arrest include ex-Assemblymember John Duane, attorney Paul Vallone, former governor’s aide Austin Shafran and urban planner Paul Graziano.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing Democrat Paul Graziano officially starts District 19 campaign


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Graziano

A Flushing urban planner officially joined District 19’s City Council race while another candidate bowed out.

Democrat Paul Graziano kicked off his campaign on March 25 at Bowne Park to unseat Republican incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran.

“My campaign is very simple. Protect your neighborhood. Do no harm,” said Graziano, a lifelong North Flushing resident. “It’s hard for me to think about theoretical and esoteric problems when we’ve got problems at hand in the community.”

The 41-year-old community activist was surrounded by family, friends and dozens of civic leaders Sunday when he announced his plans to preserve the neighborhood from overdevelopment, protect city parkland and ensure a better education system citywide.

Graziano also called for a “reconstituted” Board of Education with more borough subdivisions. He said the move would allow local school districts to operate independently and give communities a voice in the city’s decision-making process.

“It’s really important to make sure that we have an agenda that focuses on the needs of this community as well as, really, things that are crossing the entire city in importance,” Graziano said. “When we’re in a situation where I think every neighborhood feels embattled by the kinds of things that are happening, we have to stand up and do something about it.”

The Council hopeful faces a Democratic primary with former Assemblymember John Duane, Austin Shafran — the former vice president of public affairs for Empire State Development under Governor Andrew Cuomo — and attorney Paul Vallone, who is the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein dropped out of the race Sunday, citing “one of the most difficult years” of his life after his mother passed away last December.

“My mom was an amazing woman who wanted me to continue fighting for the issues I care about. However, after consulting with my friends and family, I have decided to suspend my campaign,” Silverstein said. “This campaign might be ending, but I am not going away. I will continue to advocate for the issues that are important to me.”

Silverstein had long set his sights on the seat, registering his campaign committee last May.

The Democratic primary winner will square off in November with Halloran, who was elected to the Council in 2009.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

City Council seats draw big names


| mchan@queenscourier.com

ne council

A handful of political hopefuls in northeast Queens are already mulling over a chance to join the city’s lawmaking body next year.

The draw of taking over one vacant city council seat and possibly ousting one of the borough’s only two Republicans in another district has been luring in a number of interested candidates.

Councilmember James Gennaro is currently rounding out his third and final term leading the 24th District, which stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica, and will be forced to leave his post in January 2013.

Martha Taylor, 72, has already declared her candidacy in the race to replace him. But the lawyer from Jamaica Estates may have to face off with Assemblymember Rory Lancman, should rumors of him entering the city race — spread after the Fresh Meadows attorney lost his bid for Congress in June — turn out to be true.

Taylor, a first-time candidate, is the Democratic District Leader in the 24th Assembly District, president of the Jamaica Estates Association and vice chair of Community Board 8.

Meanwhile, a bigger candidate ring is growing in the 19th District, which extends from College Point to the borders of Nassau County, currently served by Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran. Halloran has his eyes set on winning the 6th District Congressional seat, but sources say if his Capitol Hill run fails, he will try for re-election to the Council.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein, former Assemblymember John Duane and attorney Paul Vallone — the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. — are three existing, serious contenders for the seat.

Austin Shafran, the 31-year-old vice president of public affairs for government agency Empire State Development, has had his name bandied about, while longtime community activist Jerry Iannece — who was defeated in last month’s state Assembly primary — told The Courier he would “neither deny nor confirm” rumors of his entering the race.

No Republican candidate has stepped up to the plate yet, although it is still early. Buzz in the political sphere of John Messer — who recently lost a Democratic Senate primary against Senator Toby Ann Stavisky — joining were false, the Oakland Gardens attorney confirmed.

City Council elections take place next November.