Tag Archives: Peter Vallone Jr.

Former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. to face dunk tank for charity


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Peter Vallone Jr.

BY ECLEEN CARABALLO 

The carnival is making its way to one Astoria restaurant and bar.

Katch Astoria, located at 31-19 Newtown Ave., will host a Carnival Party on Friday including a fortune teller, performer from Coney Island, magician and a chance to dunk former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

Vallone, a frequent visitor to Katch, and notable figure in Queens for having represented Astoria from 2002 to 2013, seemed like the obvious choice for the dunk tank, according to Simka Griffin, a manager at Katch.

Yet, Vallone admits that when they asked whether he wanted to be dunked on a chilly Friday night he initially said no. Then, they mentioned the proceeds will go to the charity of his choice, and he said “OK, let’s do this then.”

Vallone chose SHAREing & CAREing, a nonprofit organization started in 1994 when four breast cancer survivors sought to provide cancer support services to men and women of all ages, as the charity.

Kellyann Tobin, a registered nurse and member of the organization, said Vallone and his family have been long-time supporters, and she will be at the event to support him.

Vallone has raised money for the organization in the past; specifically, as Grand Marshall of New York City Harley Owners Group (NYC HOG) Bikers – a riding club which the Vallone family has been a part of for many years, who raised $20,000 for SHAREing & CAREing last summer.

“Based on the debates I get into on my Facebook page,” Vallone said, “the line of people who want to dunk me might rival the line for the iPhone 6.”

Yet, Griffin said she thinks people will come to the dunking because of the meaning behind  it.

“He is putting himself out there saying ‘I care about something, I want to show my support for it’ and I think that actually means a lot to people to see someone like him getting up and saying ‘sure you know, ill have a good laugh at myself,” she said.

The Carnival Party will be on Friday starting at 8 p.m. at Katch Astoria.

For more information, visit katchastoria.com or shareingandcareing.catseyedevelopment.com.

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Community calls homeless shelter at East Elmhurst motel an ‘abuse of power’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

East Elmhurst residents blasted city officials Wednesday for placing a homeless shelter on Astoria Boulevard without community consultation, calling the move a “covert operation reeking of disrespect.”

More than 200 neighborhood residents packed an Astoria museum’s theater to speak against the decision by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to turn the Westway Motor Inn into a permanent homeless shelter to house more than 100 homeless families.

Community members say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“It was a deliberate, furtive and covert operation reeking of disrespect of our local elected officials, community leaders and the community at large,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, which organized the meeting. ”We were advised after the fact and consider the action by DHS an abuse of power.”

Officials say that years ago the DHS came to the community requesting to turn the 121-room motel into a homeless shelter, but were met with opposition. At the time DHS stated it had no plans to convert the motel into a full-time facility and worked with the community on making the site only a temporary overnight shelter.

“When they came to us, we explained to them why this is the wrong place. Why there is nothing for these people to do during the day, this is a hotel on a dangerous service road,” said Peter Vallone Jr., a former councilman for the area who also worked with the DHS to come to the temporary shelter agreement. “To change that agreement you were supposed to come to the community and inform us. That never happened and that is an outrage.”

The shelter is being managed by social services provider Women In Need and currently houses a total of 67 families with 129 children, ranging from 1 to 17 years old, according to DHS representatives.

Residents who lined up to speak during the meeting, which went on for more than two hours, raised concerns over community safety, overcrowding of schools, increase in property taxes, environmental studies of the area and crime.

Antonia Papadouris, whose home driveway is adjacent to the backlot of the motel, said she has seen signs of marijuana and has found hypodermic needles on the ground. She also said that last Friday a teenager playing in the backlot pulled a knife on her father-in-law.

“I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood,” Papadouris said. “My husband wants me to take mace with me.”

However, Danny Roman, a resident of the homeless shelter, said his 15-year-old step-son, who was the one involved in the altercation, never pulled a knife. Instead, Roman said, he merely approached the man after hearing screams and having seen his step-son get injured during the fight.

“I didn’t go with any weapon. I went there humble,” said Roman, who lives at the site with his wife and four children. “I do understand. I do understand, this is a strong community. They have the right to fear…. But my kids go to bed at 8 p.m. Basically we are like in a prison.”

Lorraine Stephens, DHS first deputy commissioner, said the move was necessary because “right now we are in a crisis in New York City.” She blamed the Bloomberg administration, saying there was a “lack of planning around building the necessary capacity for shelter.”

“We were put in a situation where we have to shelter everyone that comes, that is deemed eligible for shelter,” Stephens said.“We were not looking at Westway a month, two months ago. But as of June we became in a crisis because our lack of capacity forced us to look throughout New York City and say where can we house these families?”

 

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City Council announces restoration of Peter Vallone Sr. namesake scholarship


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy office of Councilman Paul Vallone

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Peter Vallone Jr. appointed to Cuomo administration


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 3:40 p.m.

Former Queens Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is joining the Cuomo administration.

Vallone, who represented the 22nd District from 2002 to 2013, has been appointed as the special assistant assigned to the commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“Excited to join the team of my good friend @NYGovCuomo! Honored to be given the opportunity to work with him and serve the people of NYS,” Vallone tweeted Thursday, following the announcement.

Cuomo welcomed Vallone’s appointment, and several others he made the same day, saying the new appointees come with “dedication to public service, proven records of success, and years of experience in providing help and care to New Yorkers across the state.”

“I am confident that these new additions to our administration will continue to improve New York State,” he said.

In addition to serving as public safety committee chair during his three-terms on the council, Vallone was previously an assistant district attorney.

Last September, Vallone lost the Democratic primary for Queens borough president to Melinda Katz.

 

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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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Star of Queens: Richard Khuzami, Community Board 1, chair, Parks and Culture Committee


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

RICHARD KHUZAMI 2

COMMUNITY  SERVICE:  Richard Khuzami has served on Community Board 1 for the past 11 years. He is currently Chair of the Parks and Culture Committee. He is also a member of Borough President Helen Marshall’s Queens General Assembly, and  has  served as a panelist for the awarding of grants for the Queens Council on the Arts.

BACKGROUND:  Khuzami is Lebanese-American, and while he was born in Bayside, he was raised in Rochester. His parents were both professional dancers, which led to his interest in music from the age of 10.

“I have kept this interest alive over the years, and today I specialize in the music of the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean and Northern Africa,” said Khuzami.

He also spent many years in the international shipping business in freight forwarding sales.

“This afforded me the opportunity to travel throughout the world for many years. I still love traveling to many cultures, but today I only have to go around Astoria, one of the most ethnically diverse municipalities in the world,” he said.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Khuzami enjoys having the privilege of working with many dedicated community board and General Assembly members, who donate so much of themselves to making their neighborhood and borough the best it can be.

“My favorite accomplishment is in helping to facilitate the conversion of Astoria Park’s diving pool from a mosquito infested eyesore to the potential of becoming one of the most important performance venues in the United States,” said Khuzami.  “Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s foresight has made this space a reality, and I look forward to working with our new councilmember, Costa Constantinides, to secure the funding to complete the second phase of the construction, creating an unparalleled venue for 2,500 patrons.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Probably my biggest challenge is to have patience and understanding to realize that everything, especially when dealing with the public sector, takes time. But with perseverance, progress can be made,” said Khuzami.

INSPIRATION:  “My father was a big proponent of public service, and taught us all to respect government and politics, and not shy away from making our opinions known or getting involved,” said Khuzami.  “As my free time increased, it was natural that I try and give back to a community I love, Astoria.”

 

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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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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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Vallone pushes ‘Adopt-A-Basket’ program in Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Peter Vallone Jr.’s campaign

A little-known citywide trash initiative could clean up Queens streets if more of the borough knew about it, a local lawmaker said.

The city’s volunteer “Adopt-A-Basket” program gives free garbage cans and bags to residents and store owners who agree to monitor the outdoor receptacles and change liners when the basket is three-quarters full.

The Department of Sanitation initiative, which began in the early 1980s, aims to reduce litter caused by overflowing trash cans.

But of the city’s 1,300 participants, fewer than 20 percent are in Queens, a sanitation spokesperson said.

“What’s the point of a program if no one knows it exists and barely anyone is participating?” said Councilmember and Borough President candidate Peter Vallone Jr. “I want to make sure Queens takes advantage of the program that exists and that we expand on that.”

If elected to head the borough, Vallone said he would fund and install placards on adopted baskets that show the name of the participating business.

The Department of Sanitation currently gives participants a certificate, but the councilmember said the award is usually hung indoors, out of sight.

The more visible plaques would give due credit to adoptees and encourage participation “in what could be a very successful program,” Vallone said.

“Sometimes, the proverbial carrot helps,” he said.

Flushing business owner James Chen said waste from full cans on Prince Street often spills out onto the streets. The refuse, he said, finds its way under a tree outside his printing company daily.

“We have to clean that every single day,” Chen said. “It’s horrible. We can’t do anything about it because there are not enough garbage cans around. People just dump whatever they want to.”

New York City law requires property owners to keep their sidewalks clean. Fines for failure to sweep sidewalks doubled to $100 in 2003.

The “Adopt-A-Basket” initiative has been pushed in the past by State Senator Marty Golden in Brooklyn and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito in Manhattan.

Those interested can call the city’s Citizen Service Center at 3-1-1.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Monday: Partly cloudy with thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. High of 95. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Monday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 79. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Jamaica Jam Drum Circle

Mike Veny is a drum circle aficionado known for his high-energy grooves and ferocious backbeat. Participants will receive basic instruction before playing in a drum circle. Pre-registration is required; space is limited. Free at the Queens Central Library. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Protesters rally in Times Square for Trayvon MartinThrongs of marchers crowded into Times Square Sunday night following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, blocking traffic amid calls for federal civil rights charges to be filed in the case. Read more: NBC New York

Councilman: Koch’s name doesn’t belong on Queensboro Bridge

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. will introduce legislation to remove deceased former Mayor Ed Koch’s name from the Queensboro Bridge. Read more: NBC New YorkOpponents furious at plans for gas pipeline under Brooklyn, Rockaways
Opponents protested Sunday against a planned natural gas pipeline that would pass through Brooklyn and the Rockaways. Read more: CBS New York/APGov. Cuomo approves funding for breast cancer mapping

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation authorizing the funding of breast cancer mapping. Read more: Fox New York

‘Glee’ star Cory Monteith found dead in Vancouver hotel

Cory Monteith, the heartthrob actor who became an overnight star as a high school quarterback-turned-singer in the hit TV series “Glee” but had battled addiction since his teenage years, was found dead of undisclosed causes in a hotel room, Vancouver police said. He was 31. Read more: AP

 

Queens Democratic endorsements: Party backs Katz for borough president, Quinn for mayor


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Melinda Katz: File photo; Christine Quinn; Photo William Alatriste

The Queens Democratic Party doled out its endorsements for this year’s elections Monday, giving key backings in multi-candidate primaries.

The party backed Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor, former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani for public advocate; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for comptroller and Melinda Katz for Borough President. Stringer’s son was born earlier that morning.

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who nearly won the mayor’s race in 2009, only received three votes in his favor. Upon Quinn’s formal nomination, she received a standing ovation. The candidate promised better conditions for the middle class in terms of jobs and education.

Katz served in the Assembly from 1994 to 1999. After that, she went on to oversee Queens’ 14 community boards under former Borough President Claire Shulman. Katz then served in the City Council for two terms, and lost the 2009 Democratic primary for comptroller.

She is running against Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

“It was not an easy choice,” said Congressmember Joseph Crowley, chair of the county party. “But we believe that Melinda has all the assets necessary to become the next borough president.”

Katz said she’s excited for the nearly four months of primary campaigning that still lie ahead.

“Over the last year, I have come into your districts,” she said. “We have spoken with constituents together. I’ve gotten to know the issues that surround this entire borough.”

Comrie was considered a likely pick for the nomination in the days leading up to the endorsement. But he has had trouble raising funds and was snubbed earlier this year in a key endorsement from the Reverend

Floyd Flake. Flake’s congregation is in Comrie’s council district, but the religious leader backed Katz.
Vallone, who has been leading in polls and in fund raising, said he was not disappointed by the party’s backing for Katz, adding he did not expect to get the endorsement. His brother Paul was endorsed for City

Council District 19, beating out Austin Shafran. Shafran has received a slew of endorsements since January, one of the biggest being from the AFL-CIO.

“The endorsement is not something I was expecting,” Vallone said. “And I’m just very happy they went with my brother Paul, because I’m going to need him in City Hall if, God willing, I’m borough president.”

In her endorsement for Saujani, Crowley cited Saujani’s advocacy for housing and work in the public advocate’s office under incumbent Bill de Blasio.

She is running in a four-way Democratic primary against State Senator Daniel Squadron, Cathy Guerriero and Tish James.

 

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Republican Arcabascio to run for Borough President


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

An Astoria technology professional is eyeing a Borough Hall run as a Republican, making the race for borough president a little tighter.

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio confirmed his candidacy and expects to receive county endorsement soon.

Arcabascio, who ran his own technology company for 13 years, made his debut in the political world last year when he ran an unsuccessful race against State Senator Michael Gianaris for District 12.

Now, looking to represent the whole borough, Arcabascio said he wants to bring his experience as the only non-elected official to the table.

“I haven’t been caught up in politics for my whole career,” he esaid.

A product of Jackson Heights, Arcabascio, 52, will face one of six Democrats vying for the spot: Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and former Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Dems will face off in a September 10 primary.

Arcabascio, who nabbed the GOP endorsement for Senate last year, expects to pick it back up for borough president. Queens Republican chair Phil Ragusa said the candidate is going through the screening process for the endorsement, and a formal announcement should come soon.

With his background in technology, Arcabascio said he is open to bringing more of the industry’s jobs to the borough, especially in western areas such as Long Island City and Maspeth.

“We have a lot of empty factories in Queens,” he said. “One of the things I believe would be my responsibility as the number one cheerleader for Queens is to get businesses here.”

 

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Council District 22 candidate Tony Meloni drops out of race


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Tony Meloni

Tony Meloni, one of the first candidates to enter the Democratic race for Peter Vallone Jr.’s City Council seat, announced he is dropping out.

Meloni confirmed he is ending his campaign to represent District 22 in Astoria so he can focus on his family and work in the community.

“It was a really hard decision,” Meloni said. “I have gone back and forth so many times. I absolutely love this community, but a person has to know their limitations and I decided to re-focus and reevaluate.”

His positions in the community include chair of Community Board 1’s public safety committee, vice-president of the Astoria Civic Association, founder of New York Anti-Crime and executive director of the Immigration Advocacy Services, an outreach center in Astoria.

Even though he is dropping out of the race, Meloni said he will remain highly active in the community to make sure focus is not lost on important issues. In regard to a future City Council run, he said he does not rule anything out, but wants to take it a step at a time.

Current candidates for District 22 are Democrats Costa Constantinides and attorney John Ciafone, Republican Daniel Peterson, Green Party candidate Lynn Serpe and Independent candidate Danielle De Stefano.

 

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Astoria teens charged in apparent mob attack caught on video


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Authorities have arrested and charged five girls in connection with an apparent mob attack on two middle school girls. Video of the incident went viral after being uploaded online.

The April 12 incident started when Samantha Gonzalez and friend Christina Campos, both 14, walked through Astoria Park along with three others. Campos told Gonzalez she feared being attacked after several girls had confronted her at a McDonald’s the day before. As the group continued their walk home, about 25 people, including high school boys and girls, approached them and violence broke out.

“I was just in shock because I was getting hit in all different directions,” Gonzalez said. “Not only was I scared, but I had no one to help me. Everyone was watching and recording.”

The recording of the fight shows a group of teenage girls pushing and shoving each other. Then one girl is pushed to the ground and dragged by the hair while being repeatedly kicked and punched.

After Gonzalez’s mother, Nina Kunicki, received a call about the attack, Kunicki ran to Gonzalez’s aid. Kunicki took her daughter to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was examined.

Campos had her eyebrow cut open after allegedly being kicked in the face multiple times. Gonzalez said she suffered bruises to the face and a fractured nose.

“You’re not supposed to be afraid walking to a park where you’re supposed to have fun,” said Kunicki, who grew up in Astoria.

She said she has never heard of attacks like this.

“No one should be in charge of destroying your life,” Kunicki added. “Don’t be afraid to speak out.”

Kunicki reached out to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. Vallone also found out about the violent video through one of his Facebook friends, and immediately took the incident to police.

“There are so many troubling things about the incident,” Vallone said. “The kids found time to encourage it and post it online. None of them put any importance in stopping the beating.”

Police are still looking for four other girls involved in the incident in addition to the five suspects already arrested. Vallone is concerned about a lack of police officers and park officials. He feels they could have prevented the fight.

“We’re doing all we can as a society to try to prevent bullying,” said Vallone. “This is an example of something much worse than bullying and when it reaches this level, we are not talking about counseling and prevention, we are talking about punishment.”

 

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