When the city decided to honor former Mayor Ed Koch by dishonoring the Borough of Queens, one lawmaker objected immediately, giving voice to the 75 percent of borough residents who saw no need to tack the old mayor’s name onto the Queensboro Bridge, however fine his contributions to the city were. The bridge had enough names already, the consensus went, and one member of the City Council agreed from day one.
That lawmaker was Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. of Astoria. And his opposition to the bridge renaming was no fluke. Vallone speaks his mind, is a man of the people and is all about Queens, through and through.
It’s because of those qualities, as well as the thoughtful, moderate positions he takes on serious issues — often at odds with a majority of his colleagues — that we are glad to endorse Vallone for the Democratic nomination for Queens borough president.
That’s not to criticize his opponent, former lawmaker Melinda Katz. This is one of those races in which we have two fine candidates, either of whom could make a fine borough president, and certainly a fine competitor against Republican nominee Tony Arcabascio, whom will face the Democratic primary winner in November.
Katz is just as well-versed in government as Vallone and brings worthy qualities and experience to the table. But Vallone’s outlook, positions and history all scream “man of the people” to us, and that’s what we want in Borough Hall.
Most recently, Vallone stood with a small group of lawmakers in opposition to the Council majority when it unwisely passed two bills meant to tie the hands of the NYPD, overriding vetoes cast by Mayor Bloomberg. As chairman of the Public Safety Comittee, Vallone knows the importance of letting police do their jobs without the additional restrictions placed on them by the so-called Community Safety Act. And he knows the practice of stopping and frisking suspicious people has already been reformed, and could be again, if necessary, without being foolishly ended.
That’s not the kind of issue Vallone would deal with directly as borough president, but it exemplifies the common-sense approach he takes to governing.
Like all candidates seeking office, Vallone says he will fight for small businesses. Unlike many of them, he means it. He voted against mandatory paid sick leave, knowing that different companies operate under different conditions, and a one-size-fits-all law was not the smart way to go. It may be that his experience as a small businessman, running his family’s law firm, helps inform Vallone’s opinions on such matters. Good. We need more of that in government.
Vallone has drafted legislation that would give borough presidents more power by requiring city agencies to go before the borough boards with their plans. He opposed not just the bridge renaming but the ill-considered plan to build a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. He says he would be a strong voice for Queens, like Marty Markowitz has been in Brooklyn and Ruben Diaz has been in the Bronx. That’s welcome news, given how the Queens borough presidency has atrophied in recent years.
The one area where we may have to keep Vallone’s feet to the fire is development, making sure he doesn’t approve too much of it. But he’s sure to take public opinion into account.
And face it, Vallone’s cool — riding around on his Harley, playing his guitar at clubs, driving that black Cadillac that makes you think of the Batmobile.
Leaving those last lighthearted points aside, there’s good reason to vote Vallone for the borough president nomination on Tuesday, and we hope you’ll join us in doing so.