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Queens Chronicle

King Manor looks at public service

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Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2010 12:00 am

Politics runs in the family. At least in Queens it does, where the borough’s long tradition of political dynasties was celebrated last week at King Manor Museum in Jamaica during a portrait unveiling.

The museum — which once was home to the Kings — one of Queens’ first political families, unveiled its newly-restored portrait of John Alsop King, son of founding father Rufus King, and a 19th century New York state governor.

Rufus King was a member of the Continental Congress and an ambassador to Great Britain, and was also one of the framers and signers of the Constitution. John Alsop, his eldest son, followed in his political footsteps, and was elected to Congress in 1849.

Both were outspoken opponents of slavery, and today, their home, which once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, remains both a symbol of anti-slavery and public service.

With the restoration of the painting, the museum hopes to re-emphasize the family’s commitment to public service that both the Kings and modern-day political dynasties of Queens exemplify.

“We want to reintroduce John King and the important role that he and his generation played in challenging the existence of slavery,” said Mary Anne Mrozinski, executive director of the museum.

Joining the celebration were area students from PS 86, members of community groups and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), whose father was the former council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and grandfather was Judge Charles Vallone of Queens County Civil Court.

Vallone said that while other children were learning the crafts and trades of their parents, “we were learning how to serve the public.”

But the Vallone’s are not the only modern political dynasty who call Queens home. The Weprins, including David, Mark and the late Saul, are or were all state and city lawmakers, as were Alan, Daniel and Andrew Hevesi; and Rep. Joe Crowley, whose cousin is city Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. Her parents, Walter and Mary Crowley, also served in office.

Then there’s former Queens native Gov. Mario Cuomo, whose son, state Attorney General Andrew, is running for governor; state Sen. Toby Stavisky, who holds the seat formerly occupied by her late husband, Leonard; and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., whose father the late Joseph Addabbo Sr. was a congressman.

While Addabbo could not attend, Grace Addabbo, Joe’s mother, and Grace’s grandsons, Joe Addabbo III and Ted Zel were at the ceremony.

Ted, who will be a freshman at Baruch College, said he has no plans for politics right now, while Joe, who will be a senior at St. John’s University, said he hopes to pursue public service by attending law school, where he feels he can be of “bigger help to the community.”

In a letter from Joe Addabbo Jr. that was read aloud, this commitment to public service resounded yet again: “My father told me that you have to look at people’s problems not through your own eyes, but through theirs.”

And though for now, politics may not beckon the young men’s futures, the words that were spoken before the fourth generation of Addabbos, made clearer than ever that the tradition of dedication to service will continue to be passed down, even if it’s not through politics.

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