Tag Archives: Paul Vallone

Bayside BID tackles area’s parking problem


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

There’s a lack of parking on Bell Boulevard and one group is trying to solve that problem.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), which supports hundreds of businesses along Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue, is launching a major project that will take at least half a decade to complete and require participation from various city organizations and local community members.

The main focus will be on alleviating the high demand for parking on Bell Boulevard, Bayside’s commercial area. The project is something that Lyle Sclair, the BID’s executive director, has wanted to start since at least last year.

“We’re kicking the project into high gear,” he said. “Parking has always been an issue on Bell. It’s a desirable destination to come to.”

With community support, the long-term goal will be the conversion of a city-owned lot on the corner of 41st Avenue and 214th Place into a multilevel parking garage. City Councilman Paul Vallone provided $20,000 last year for the conversion and since then Sclair has expanded the project’s goals.

The first phase of the project will begin this Thursday when Sclair will send people out on the streets to count the amount of parking spots available along the boulevard and to identify areas that have the most congestion.

“Bayside has both commuter and residential parking, and we want to see how they interact with each other to make parking a problem in the neighborhood,” Sclair said.

For now, the initiative is being funded through a $20,000 grant provided by Vallone, but Sclair plans to eventually get the city to fund a major project that will increase the supply of parking. And a firm, VHB, has been hired to put plans together.

The firm will look at other communities in Long Island that have solved their parking problems, since the layout of those areas resembles that of Bayside more than most New York City neighborhoods that have access to trains.

“It is no secret that the popularity of this commercial hub makes parking difficult for those commuting via the Long Island Rail Road and customers frequenting stores,” Vallone said last year. “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.”

Sclair believes that they will ultimately implement several solutions from short-term tinkering, such as free valet services on parts of Bell Boulevard, to more long-term goals like building a parking garage.

“There’s only so much you can do with tweaking around the edges,” Sclair said. “The big thing is increasing the supply.”

But Sclair doesn’t want the city to dictate the terms. On April 14, the BID is holding a community meeting at the Bayside Methodist Church at 7 p.m. to gauge the public’s interests and concerns.

“We’re here to understand these localized issues and work with the city to come up with solutions,” Sclair said. “We have everybody on board and we want to have everyone in the conversation as early as possible.”

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Op-ed: Queens needs a full-service animal shelter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY PAUL A. VALLONE

In 2000, as speaker of the New York City Council, my father Peter F. Vallone passed the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act. This act required that a full-service animal shelter exist in each of the five boroughs. At the time, I would never have guessed that 15 years later, Queens and the Bronx would continue to lack these shelters, but that is the unfortunate reality we face.
When I began my tenure as council member last year, I knew that this issue would be at the forefront of my agenda. Local Law 59, which was passed in 2011, eliminated the legal requirement to build these shelters in Queens and the Bronx, leaving them with only “receiving centers.” These receiving centers do not provide many of the services that full-service shelters do. Seeking to revive the fight waged by my father and brother, I immediately reached out to my fellow council members in Queens and the Bronx, and together we sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration, asking them to include funding for these shelters in our boroughs. The funding was never allocated. Following that letter, I introduced legislation that would reestablish the mandate for these shelters to be built and I look forward to my bill being heard at this week’s Health Committee Hearing.

I am proud to continue my family’s legacy of advocating for the health, safety and welfare of animals. In the past year, I have co-sponsored critical legislation to protect animals such as enhancing our animal abuse registry, increasing dog licensing requirements and toughening pet shop regulations. I often think back on the old saying, “A society is judged by how it treats its weakest members.” The way we treat our animals, who are voiceless and vulnerable, will be looked upon in history as a measure of our humanity. The continued lack of full-service shelters in Queens and the Bronx results in animals suffering in many ways because receiving centers do not provide shelter or medical care for homeless animals, nor do they provide a lost and found for lost pets before they’re euthanized. Animals brought to these receiving centers in the Bronx and Queens are currently transported to a full-service shelter in the other boroughs. This places insurmountable pressure on the existing facilities that already operate beyond maximum capacity. Additionally, this decreases the chances for lost pets to be found by their owners because their lost pets are turning up in another borough. If it were its own city, Queens alone would rank as the nation’s fourth largest and it is appalling that no animal shelter exists here.

I was pleased to learn that the mayor’s administration recently announced plans to increase funding for Animal Care & Control of New York City but in reality, this amounts to little more than putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound. This simply is not enough and I will not sit idly by and allow the people and pets of Queens and the Bronx to be shortchanged.

Council member Paul A. Vallone represents Northeastern Queens in the City Council.

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Flushing senior center enriches members’ lives with technology


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

For a senior center in Flushing, innovation is measured by iPads and in megabytes.

The City Council allocated $150,000 to senior centers like the Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Innovative Senior Center so that it could continue to develop technological programs that, among other things, allow older people to connect with their families using Skype. The senior center is run by Selfhelp and was designated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an “innovation center” along with seven other places in 2012.

“This Council has been determined to enhance senior services and Selfhelp is a great example,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said on Friday during a tour of the center.

Skype is used as the engine of the virtual senior center, which provides seniors with extra-large computer screens, so even those with failing eyesight can participate remotely in live events.

Such events include virtual tours of the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art.

Councilmen Paul Vallone and Peter Koo joined Mark-Viverito on the tour, and both emphasized the importance of caring for the elderly and stimulating their minds with devices like the Nintendo Wii game console that the center has.

Vallone said that with the new allocation they would be able to make more centers “innovative.”

“My senior centers in northeast Queens are going to start experiencing this wonderful technology as we start phasing it in,” he said. “This is the beginning of something wonderful.”

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


By Queens Courier Staff | 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


By Queens Courier Staff | 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


By Queens Courier Staff | 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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