And now there are three.
Astoria lawyer John Ciafone has entered the race for the District 22 seat held by term-limited Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).
Ciafone, 43, will run in the September Democratic primary against Councilman Jim Gennaro’s deputy chief of staff, Costa Constantinides, and Advocacy Services Director Antonio Meloni. All three candidates are native Astorians.
Ciafone said that he was approached by a few Astorians who questioned why he entered the race, implying that the race should be between Meloni and Constantinides.
“This is a democracy,” Ciafone said. “Why can’t anyone run? There’s this mentality that only certain people should run. I think it’s antidemocratic.”
Meloni, 56, and Constantinides, 37, announced their candidacies in August and since then Constantinides has garnered support from several unions, such as Teamsters Local 831 Sanitation Workers and 32BJ SEIU, and the Working Families Party. Meloni has not been endorsed by anyone as of yet, but multiple sources have said that Vallone intends to support him— although Vallone’s spokesman said the councilman has not “endorsed anyone at this time.”
All that support prevents candidates from acting independently: Ciafone said — and he doesn’t mean the Independence Party, which he calls a “fraudulent party.”
“The unions endorsed very early on before anyone could declare,” Ciafone said. “What if Bill Clinton moved into Astoria and decided to run? They need to be fair.”
Meloni disagreed with the implication special interests would taint his actions. “I am the most independent candidate out of all of them,” he said. “They are both attorneys and have been in the world of politics.
“I am the one candidate who comes from community activism and not politics. My loyality is to the people not to any political tie,” said Meloni, who founded the New York Anti-Crime Agency and volunteers on a slew of boards and groups from the Kiwanis to Community Board 1 to the Astoria Civic Association.
“This is very important in this climate as we all well know,” Meloni said. As for Vallone’s possible support, he said he would be flattered.
Ciafone has entered the world of politics before.
He ran against Vallone in 2001, ran for Democratic district leader and ran in 2010 for the Assembly seat currently held by Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria).
He is the executive officer of the Aldos Democratic Club.
Ciafone also has decades of experience as a general practice attorney representing the gamut of cases at his own practice on Steinway Street and is counsel to the New York State Fraternal Order of Police Big Apple Lodge.
Constantinides’ politial experience comes from working as the legislative director for Gennaro and Councilwoman Darlene Mealy (D-Brooklyn). In 2009 Constantinides was elected Democratic district leader for Part A for the 36th Assembly District.
Opposite from Ciafone’s statement, Constantinides said his union support and political experience are pluses.
“I really feel we have a broad base of support — many unions and electeds and individuals,” he said. “It’s a grassroots compaign with 600 people who have supported — with many people donating 20 and 15 dollars.”
He said his work with Gennaro gives him a head start because if elected he would know how the Council works instead of starting from scratch. As for union support, he sees that as more support from the neighborhood.
“I’m proud to have their support because they have members who live in the community,” he said.
Constantinides is vice president of the Long Island City Alliance, has rallied to keep the Grand Avenue post office open and has participated in several park cleanups in Astoria, a key issue in his campaign.
Ciafone was president of Community School Board 30, fighting against the teachers’ union in some cases, he said.
Ciafone has kept abreast of issues facing the district such as a recent proposal by the Department of Education to reduce seats in PS 122’s middle-school gifted and talented program to make room for general education classes, a move Ciafone is against. The proposal has garnered a huge opposition with parents of both G&T and general education students against the plan.
Besides education — vowing to support new schools to alleviate crowding — Ciafone puts lessening the burden of city fines and supporting the stop-and-frisk practice, on the top of his campaign promises list.
“We are under attack by city departments — fees, fines and tickets all the time,” he said. “Parking and business fines; this needs to change. People can’t be supporting the government.”
The father of three would like to see a moratorium on getting parking tickets within about 25 minutes from when a meter expires.
“I know the city needs money, but it’s become very difficult to sustain one’s livelihood,” Ciafone said. “Nothing goes down in this city; the water bills have been sky rocketing.”
To take the heat away from fees and fines the Council hopeful would like to see stripped-down budgets without the “pork,” adding that education, medical and police should be top priorities, and that the city can try to fund other items from there.
“We must go over the mismanagement of projects,” he said, citing highway projects that have to be reconstructed because of faulty work. “That waste must be stopped.”
Another hot-button item is stop and frisk. Like Vallone — but unlike his opponents Meloni, who says the numbers are too high, and Constantinides, who says the city needs to look to another policy to combat crime — Ciafone agrees with the police procedure.
“We can’t eliminate it completely,” he said. “We would be faced with increased crime.”
Ciafone would also like to see more cops on the street, a hope he shares with the other two candidates.
“When I was kid we knew officers by name. We saw them on bikes,” he said. “We have to find a way in the budget.”
Previous articles about Meloni and Constantinides can be found on qchron.com.