Tag Archives: Paul Vallone

Star of Queens: Lauren Elizabeth Cornea, Clinton Club of Northeast Queens


| editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_5323

JANAE HUNTER

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Lauren Cornea has been a Young Democrat with the Clinton Club of Northeast Queens, which serves the neighborhoods of Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck and Whitestone, since 2010. The club keeps the community updated on local events and politics in the neighborhood. She is also a member of the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club and does community and volunteer work for the community through the chapter. When she is not doing work for these organizations or volunteering for attorney Paul Vallone, she is a Learning Leader volunteer, where she tutors students at P.S. 21Q in reading, writing and math.

BACKGROUND: Cornea was born and raised in Flushing. After graduating from the Harvey School, Cornea spent some time traveling in Europe. Now, she is back in Queens and works as a realtor at Amorelli Realty in Astoria, and is the single mother of two children, Dominic John, 8, and Violeta-Rose, 6.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The greatest obstacle I have faced is being a single mother juggling career and family life,” Cornea said. Raising two young children and balancing a job can be hard, but she makes it work. As for her career, being a female commercial realtor is tough when there are so many men doing the job. “This is a man’s world, and I have had to work extra to live in it. I work extra hard for people to take me seriously and value what I have to say. I have worked very hard to be seen as a woman who is knowledgeable and hard working and not just seen as a pretty face.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I have so many achievements that I’m proud of that it’s hard to choose,” said Cornea. “One of my top achievements has been closing the deal on Steinway Mansion. That deal took 18 months and when we finally closed the deal it went for $2.6 million.” But, she added, raising her children, successfully bouncing back from the divorce, having the opportunity to give back by teaching children to learn to read, write and do basic arithmetic, and being a successful woman in a male-dominated profession are also some of Cornea’s greatest achievements.

INSPIRATION: “This may sound corny, but my biggest inspiration is definitely my kids,” said Cornea. “They rely on me for everything. On days when I do not feel like getting up, all I have to do is think about my two children who need me to be a success in order for them to have a better future.” Cornea said she is also inspired by her natural competitiveness that makes her try and be the best at whatever she does.

 

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Board approves Greek-American school expansion in Whitestone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Giannopoulos Architects

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is planning a $1.5 million expansion of its elementary school in Whitestone, and recently cleared a major hurdle in the process.

Community Board 7 voted almost unanimously, 35-1, on Monday to allow a variance for the planned expansion of the Efstathios & Stamatiki Valiotis Greek-American Day School, which sits on 12th Avenue and 150th Street.

The school currently enrolls pre-K to third grade, but administrators want to provide nursery to fifth grade education.

The building expansion proposal includes raising the ceiling on the school’s attic level to create a full second floor, as well as expanding the side of the building on 12th Avenue more toward the street. Also, the school’s parking lot will be rearranged more efficiently and about half a dozen new spots will be added.

The expansion will include much-needed classroom space and other amenities, including a computer lab. The Greek Orthodox community showed strong support during the vote, and parents and residents said it will benefit the neighborhood.

“It’s great for our families and it’s great for the community,” said Chris Koukounas, a parent of two students at the school.

“Right now we don’t have enough square-footage per child. There are fewer facilities, we don’t have a science and computer lab, the lunchroom is very packed, and it’s not a safe environment.”

The school’s enrollment for its Greek-American day school is about 180 students. The expansion will allow for 250 students.

For the board to agree with the proposal, its Land-Use Committee had stipulations to increase safety. Holy Cross has agreed to the conditions, which include putting a stop sign on the corner of 150th Street and 12th Avenue.

Councilman Paul Vallone is working with the Department of Transportation to have the stop sign added, and the legislator voiced his approval of the expansion.

The recommendation from the board, as well as a letter from Councilman Paul Vallone, will be sent to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say on the expansion.

 

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High school ambassadors wanted in City Hall


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Momos

A high school program meant to give politically-minded scholars a taste of City Hall will begin this fall.

Councilman Paul Vallone will announce the kickoff of his Ambassador Program at a press conference Friday.

The initiative allows about 10 incoming juniors from Holy Cross High School, Bayside High School and World Journalism Preparatory to serve for a year as community representatives.

The future leaders will organize food collections and cleanups, work with city agencies, take trips to City Hall and even draft a bill to be introduced in the City Council.

“Education is important in classrooms, but it shouldn’t stop there,” Vallone said.

“Providing this opportunity that gives each student every possibility of future success is the least we can do for our children.”

The program will begin this September and last until June.

Students are chosen by a principal, guidance counselor or teacher.

For more information, call 718-619-8611.

 

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Queens reacts to newly enacted paid sick leave law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Jackson Heights coffee bar owner Afzal Hossain doesn’t like the city’s new paid sick leave law, but he believes we should all follow the law, no matter the burden.

His business, Espresso 77, is now required to provide paid sick leave to employees under the city’s newly enacted law, which affects businesses with five or more employees, expanding previous legislation that applied to businesses with 15 or more workers.

“I know it’s going to be hard for us, but I understand if it’s the law, we have to follow it,” Hossain said.

Although he’s willing to comply, he isn’t happy about it. Business owners like him could be financially hurt under it, Hossain said.

Most of Hossain’s employees are part-time and he believes the law should apply to individuals working at least 40 hours a week.

Under the legislation, workers earn sick time for every 30 hours worked, according to legal advocacy group A Better Balance. Part-time workers will earn paid sick time based on hours worked.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a partner at his family’s Astoria law firm and member of the City Council’s Committee on Small Business, voted against the bill when the Council passed it on Feb. 26.

“The continued cries of our small businesses for more support and reduction in the already exhausting fines and regulations that burden them must be heard,” he said in a testimony before the Council.

Some Queens businesses see paid sick leave as a benefit and have already been offering it to employees.

“[Paid sick leave] is something that we felt was the right thing to do,” said Julio Isidor, office manager of Clinica Dental Latina, located in Corona.

The business, which also has a Howard Beach office, Cosmetic Dental Image, has been offering its employees two annual paid sick days for over a year.

As a dental office it’s important that its employees don’t come to work ill and spread their sickness to the patients, Isidor said.

 

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Contentious Whitestone sidewalk café bid up for vote later this month


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An application for a Whitestone sidewalk café will go up for a City Council vote at the end of the month without support from the area councilmember. 

“It was pretty clear that the community opposed it, and I will make my case against it,” Councilmember Paul Vallone said. “It’s just not the right fit.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) approved Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria owner’s bid last year to wrap an outdoor sitting area around his restaurant at 22-30 154th St.

City lawmakers will vote on the application March 26, though Vallone says the legislative body will likely follow suit with his “no” vote and shut it down.

The sidewalk is not wide enough for outdoor seating and too close to residential homes, said Vallone and State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents also feared it would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

“A sidewalk café at this location is simply wrong,” Avella said. “If this application is approved by the City Council, abutting residents will suffer significantly increased traffic and noise.”

But Joe Lobue, who manages the Italian restaurant, said the sidewalk café would let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

“I think it would actually help the community,” he said. “It would be a place for them to sit down and relax. I disagree with the negativity.”

Hans Roessel, a 73-year-old regular of the restaurant — who also lives across the street — welcomed the plan.

“It doesn’t bother the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re going to make it nice. Why can’t we sit outside?”

 

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Pols call for more city buses to run through Douglaston


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More city buses need to roll through Douglaston, local elected officials demanded Monday, calling the neighborhood a “transit desert.”

Five major bus routes, coupled with sporadic service, are not enough to serve the area’s growing ridership, according to Congressmember Steve Israel and Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“This is not just a matter of convenience for Douglaston residents,” Israel said. “This is just the smart thing to do.”

The two called for an increase in federal and state funding to buy more local and express buses, bus lines and bus stops in the neighborhood they said was “underserved” by mass transit.

Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, Councilmember Paul Vallone and the Straphanger’s Campaign are also on board.

Rozic said current service was “unreliable, unsustainable and unacceptable.”

But an MTA spokesperson said improvements have been made to the QM3 and QM8’s running times and frequency in the past year.

The Q36 has also been extended and the Q76 weekend service has been restored and expanded, the spokesperson said. Weekend Q31 service will also be restored this spring. 

 

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Federal, state and city officials: ‘Make Lunar New Year an official school holiday’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

State lawmakers have strengthened a renewed push to make Lunar New Year an official school holiday, garnering support from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Students shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between celebrating their heritage and missing a day of school,” the newly-risen speaker said.

The City Council plans to introduce two resolutions, calling for schools to close and metered parking to be suspended on one of the most important holidays of the year in Asian communities, Mark-Viverito said.

Multiple other measures have been introduced in the state and federal levels that call for a similar break for families.

A bill that would establish Lunar New Year as a school holiday for districts with an Asian-American population of at least 7.5 percent has been introduced in the State Senate and Assembly for years.

Flushing is the only neighborhood in Queens to meet the criteria, along with Chinatown in downtown Manhattan.

While it has made no movement in the past, elected officials gathered Friday in downtown Flushing to declare 2014 the year of action.

“This is the year and this is the time we believe it’s going to happen,” said Councilmember Paul Vallone, who is drafting a bill that would suspend metered parking that day.

About 14 percent of city students in the school system are Asian-American, Mark-Viverito said.

Officials have long argued absence rates in some city schools climb 80 percent on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Though observing students are “excused,” the absence is marked on their record.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who spearheaded the Assembly’s attempts during her last tenure, proposed a resolution in Congress this month, asking local education agencies that include the city’s Department of Education to close schools that day.

“One day, we’ll look back and see that we made history,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.

 

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Vallone announces new high school program, outlines big ideas for district


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember Paul Vallone wants sparks to fly during his time in office.

The freshman legislator launched idea after idea — including shooting fireworks on Bell Boulevard and hosting movie and game nights — during a two-hour interview with The Courier.

“I want to bring back that old-time feel,” he said, gazing at the boulevard out of his fifth floor Bell Plaza windows.

“You look at things from a different perspective,” he said. “As a father, I think, ‘What would my kids want to do?”

His long list of plans for the district also include having quarterly roundtables with the district’s community groups and starting up a new Student Ambassadors program in February with three local high schools.

The initiative allows about 10 juniors from Holy Cross High School, Bayside High School and World Journalism Preparatory to serve for a year as community representatives.

The teens would organize food collections and cleanups, take trips to City Hall and even draft a bill to be introduced in the City Council.

“It’s the next generation’s input,” Vallone said. “I’m not going to touch it, whatever they draft.”

As for his own bill, Vallone filed his first piece of legislation Jan. 9, calling for the city to recognize Lunar New Year as a major holiday.

It supports a law already introduced in the State Senate and Assembly that has not moved for years.

The lawmaker also plans to continue participatory budgeting, which begins in 2015 at its earliest. The city initiative gives residents the chance to develop and vote on physical infrastructure projects they want to see in their neighborhoods.

At the top of his growing list of priorities is still making sure a school is not built in the former Whitestone Jewels site.

“This is nonstop,” he said. “We’re still watching.”

 

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Paul Vallone sworn into City Council during local inauguration


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Hundreds of residents packed into a school auditorium Saturday to watch Councilmember Paul Vallone get sworn into office.

The early afternoon ceremony at P.S. 169 in Bay Terrace was attended by a lengthy list of dignitaries, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Vallone, 46, was installed by his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. He took his oath of office, swearing on the family’s Bible.

“I believe that what you’re doing today, by bringing Paul Vallone into this very diversified and complicated district … that you will be delivering to this Council district one of the best representatives in government that this country has ever produced,” Vallone Sr. said.

The freshman legislator continues the 40-year Vallone legacy in City Hall. His brother, Peter Vallone Jr., was term limited out of the City Council at the end of 2013.

Vallone, who represents District 19, was officially sworn into the City Council Dec. 10 by City Clerk Michael McSweeney.

He ended his inauguration by giving out his first proclamation to Kevin and Tina Lynch, who won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” last month and rocketed Whitestone to national stardom.

 

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Council approves law increasing number of parks where crime is reported


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The City Council unanimously passed an amendment Thursday that would require the NYPD to submit to the Council crime reports for all city parks and playgrounds larger than one acre.

Currently, crimes are only reported in the city’s 31 largest green spaces.

The NYPD would also be required to post this data on the department’s website within five days of providing it to the Council, according to Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, who proposed the amendment.

The councilmember said the amendment will close a “loophole” from a bill he passed in 2006.

“It will help the public make more informed decisions about their safety,” said Vallone

That legislation originally required the crime reporting of 20 parks, but was supposed to be extended to hundreds more over three years. But, according to Vallone, the NYPD didn’t need to make those increases if the technology wasn’t available to do it.

The amendment will increase the amount of parks where crime is reported to over 870, Vallone said.

According to the legislation, the Police Department would be required to report crimes for 100 of the city’s largest parks initially, then that number would be increased over time, until January 2017 when all crimes for parks one acre or larger would be reported. In January 2018, crimes would be submitted for public pools, basketball courts, recreation centers and playgrounds that are not located within parks one acre or greater in size.

Vallone said he anticipates a veto from Mayor Michael  Bloomberg.

It would be up to the next City Council to override his veto in January, he said.

“I’m sure my brother will lead the way on [the override], Vallone said, referring to Paul Vallone, who starts his term representing District 19 next month.

 

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Paul Vallone sworn into City Council


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@pfvjr

Councilmember Paul Vallone was officially sworn into the City Council Tuesday by City Clerk Michael McSweeney.

The freshman legislator, who represents District 19, begins his term Jan. 1.

He will have a local inauguration ceremony Jan. 4.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Incoming Councilmember Paul Vallone names staff


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone has picked the team he’ll take to City Hall in January, The Courier has learned.

The seven-member staff consists mostly of longtime supporters and includes two former employees of Queens elected officials and the aunt of a local assemblymember.

“These are people who believed in me five years ago, when I first started,” Vallone said during an interview at his family’s Flushing law firm. “They’ve been with me since day one. They’ve grown with me, bled with me, laughed with me. They did everything with me. I trust them.”

The incoming lawmaker appointed Jonathan Szott as his chief of staff, snatching the top aide from his term-limited brother, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

He is also taking Michael Yon from his part-time gig at Assemblymember Ron Kim’s office to work constituent services and community outreach in the Korean communities.

Both workers received blessings from their former bosses before the switch.

“For me, it was easy to decide, even though it’s really not a lot of time,” Vallone said. “It’s really only been a month since the election. It was probably harder to cut down the list.”

The hires were finalized last week, the freshman legislator said.

They include Communications Director Lionel Morales, Director of Constituent Services/Treasurer Vito Tautonico and part-timers Breeana Mulligan and Ahmed Nazar.

Kate Boehme, the aunt of Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, will also help part-time in the communications department. Boehme and other members of Braunstein’s family helped a lot with campaigning, Vallone said.

“They were with me this summer from beginning to end. She’ll be a big asset,” he said.

There may also be room to add one or two more positions, including legislative director, Vallone said.

Also up in the air is where the incoming councilmember will work.

The Flushing branch of the family’s law firm at 25-59 Francis Lewis Boulevard will close after five years, as Vallone prepares to transition into a full-time elected official.

High hopes of transforming the office into his City Council headquarters may be dashed since the bathroom is not yet wheelchair accessible.

“It’s going to be hard parting with this place,” said Vallone. “My wife and I did everything here. I mean everything, from kids’ homework to the Clinton Democratic Club to both campaigns.”

Vallone starts his new job January 1. He will be officially sworn into the City Council January 8 and will have a local inauguration January 5.

But work has already begun, Vallone said, and calls have been pouring in from constituents in need.

The lawmaker-to-be said he has already gotten commitments from the city’s School Construction Authority officials, saying they will move away from building a school in Whitestone.

And while it is too late to change plans for a Bayside school at the former Keil Bros. site — something Vallone said he opposed, despite other claims — the city pledged to keep the school zoned for School District 26 only, Vallone said.

“It’s still an unfortunate location, but that’s a major victory,” he said.

Vallone replaces Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year.

 

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Council vote OKs Bayside school on Keil Bros. site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial proposal to build a school in Bayside sailed through the City Council last week, despite the community’s overwhelming opposition.

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) needed the Council’s final ruling in order to go through with plans to build a new elementary school at the site of the Keil Bros. Garden Center and Nursery.

Owners of the popular garden center sold their 210-11 48th Avenue property to the city for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

The City Council approved the application last Thursday, with only Queens legislators Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. voting no.

“I had opposed the school because I didn’t think it was the best site for a school to begin with,” Weprin said. “I wasn’t even convinced about the need for the school.”

Nearby homeowners said the 456-seat institution would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

The contentious plan even led to two rowdy residents threatening SCA officials in May, when the proposal was first presented to the public at a heated Community Board 11 meeting.

The board had just shot down the application in an advisory vote when a male resident threatened to break an SCA representative’s legs and a woman allegedly followed another official in a car, The Courier reported.

“The community is very much against it,” Weprin said. “The Department of Education decided we needed a school there. I haven’t met anybody in the community who is dying to have a school there.”

But many local educators who support the plan said the new school would relieve heavy congestion in the district’s 21 elementary schools. At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music rooms, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of CB 11.

The SCA said its site selection process began in 2008. The authority honed in on the Bayside location this April. The DOE did not comment on when construction would begin.

Meanwhile, a battle still brews between the district’s state senator and its new councilmember.

State Senator Tony Avella claims Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone snubbed the community by supporting the proposal behind closed doors.

Vallone, who does not cast a Council vote until January, has “never voiced support for the school site,” his spokesperson said.

“Tony must not have gotten the memo — he’s not the councilman anymore,” said spokesperson Austin Finan. “Moving forward, Paul Vallone will not be responding to the lies perpetuated by Senator Avella who has clearly demonstrated he is more focused on personal vendettas than he is the future of northeast Queens.”

 

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Bill would limit when registered lobbyists could run for office


| mchan@queenscourier.com

State Senator Tony Avella, taking a shot at two newly elected officials, introduced a bill that would limit when registered lobbyists could run for office.

Legislation the lawmaker announced last week would prohibit former registered lobbyists from running for city or state office for two years from the time they leave their firms.

Elected lobbyists could have a “distinct and unequal advantage” when it comes to influence, access and money, Avella said.

“It’s no question we have to reduce the amount of influence lobbyists have,” he said. “The less influence, the better.”

Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz and Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone are registered as New York City lobbyists — a fact Avella said was not lost on him when he was running against Katz for borough president.

Avella also supported Vallone’s primary opponent, Paul Graziano.

The senator said he spoke to widely known good government groups on the bill, though he did not specify which organizations supported it.

“I thought the bill was appropriate. I think that it’s something we should do in the future,” Avella said. “If elected officials and their staff are prohibited from working as registered lobbyists for a period of time after their term or employment has ended, why isn’t the reverse true?”

The bill, which Avella says is the first of its kind, was referred to the Senate’s Rules Committee on July 1. If passed, it would take effect immediately.

 

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Paul Vallone wins race for Halloran’s seat, continues Vallone legacy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The 40-year Vallone legacy will live on in City Hall.

Paul Vallone, 46, will carry his family’s name in the City Council for the next four years after winning election Tuesday to lead District 19 in northeast Queens.

Vallone beat Republican Dennis Saffran with 57.2 percent of the vote, as of midnight with all precincts reporting, according to preliminary results.

“[This] was a five-year journey that finished today,” Vallone said. “The good guys did it today.”

The two were vying to replace scandal-scarred incumbent Dan Halloran, who chose not to seek re-election after his April arrest on bribery charges.

“They attacked. They lied. They lost,” Vallone said of his opponent’s campaign. “Those who lie don’t get a seat in this community anymore.”

Vallone emerged in September as the winner of a crowded Democratic primary race that came down to the wire.

He beat runner-up candidate Austin Shafran by nearly 200 votes after voting machines were checked and paper ballots were counted.

One of Vallone’s primary foes, Paul Graziano, later crossed party lines to endorse Saffran.

Halloran, a Republican, did the same — but to cast his vote for Vallone, he announced on his Facebook page on Election Day.

“Voting today — for the first time in my life voting for a democratic city council candidate and candidate for public advocate,” Halloran wrote on his post, which was accompanied with a photo of Vallone’s campaign flyers.

He later congratulated Vallone with a Facebook post that said, “The Vallone family’s tradition of public service continues and I am sure Paul will work diligently for us.”

Vallone, a Flushing attorney, is the son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Vallone Sr. represented Astoria from 1974 until 2002 when his oldest son succeeded him. Vallone Jr. is term-limited out of office this year.

“I think it’s very, very important that we have one good, moderate voice in the City Council that can bring both sides together, resulting in a safer city,” said Vallone Sr. “That’s the way I tried to start it in 1974, and we have to do that again. If anybody can do it, it’s Paul Vallone.”

Vallone Jr. shared the same sentiment, saying a “reasonable voice in City Hall is needed more than ever.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of my little brother,” Vallone Jr. said. 

This will be the first time in four decades a Vallone will represent northeast Queens instead of Astoria.

The district runs from College Point to Auburndale-Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston and Little Neck. 

The area’s elected officials, the Queens Democratic Party and civic leaders who endorsed him welcomed the change.   

“We’ve restored some sanity to the 19th District,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “The residents can now hold their heads high and be proud.”