Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) joined the Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center to reveal the re-launch of a free transportation program for elderly constituents on Monday.
Like the nearly identical pilot program that the lawmaker announced in April, the initiative will allow seniors to call the Clearview Senior Center in Bay Terrace to schedule free rides provided by the Four Twos car company for medical appointments. The highly popular previous version, which ended after the $30,000 funding it ran out, also had transportation for shopping trips and visiting cultural institutions.
“I think the holidays are a great time, because everybody is getting what they need done, and that includes medical appointments,” said Vallone, the chairman of the Council Subcommittee on Senior Centers.
The medical visits, he added, were a crucial part of the earlier program for seniors. “Providing a car service to and from your medical doctor, no matter where that medical visit is, was almost a life-saving service that we brought to northeast Queens,” said Vallone, who was joined at the press conference by Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan).
It launches on Nov. 13 and will end when the $50,000 in Council funds paying for it runs out. To schedule a ride, call Selfhelp at (718) 224-7888 between 9 a.m. and noon; you’ll be able to set up one for the day after the call. Those interested in using the service must complete an application with an emergency contact and basic demographic information before they can set up an appointment.
The initiative can take seniors to Nassau County and other parts of the city. It will run on the weekend. “If somebody calls on Friday, they can have that ride for a Saturday or a Sunday,” Vallone said.
The councilman, who is running against Reform Party candidate Paul Graziano in November’s general election after defeating him in the Democratic primary, said he’s confident that the latest version of the program won’t be the last. “You have my commitment, we will continue to fund this program year after year,” the lawmaker added.
“We know that continued investments by government, including through this program, enable New Yorkers to age in the communities that they have grown to call home,” Selfhelp Vice President of External Relations and Communications Sandy Myers said.
While the mood at the press conference was joyful, the councilman’s election foe had previously attacked him for his usage of the car service on the day of September’s primary election. The Vallone campaign has staunchly denied doing anything wrong.
In a complaint to the Campaign Finance Board about Vallone and the car service, Graziano criticizes his opponent for not listing the Four Twos rides his campaign used to bring seniors to polling sites as an expenditure for Sept. 12, the day of the primary election and the one that the rides were given on.
The payments in campaign filings to Four Twos are: $78.25 on Sept. 6 and $58.65 on Sept. 17. “Clearly, those were for rides not given on Primary Day,” Graziano wrote in the complaint. He also contends that far more rides were provided than were paid for by the expenditures listed on the CFB website.
Vallone’s campaign explained that the expenditures were not listed on the same day as the primary. “A campaign has 90 days to pay for any outstanding liabilities,” the incumbent’s camp said in an email. “The date of the expenditure listed on the CFB website reflects the date the bill was paid, not the date the cost was incurred.”
In the document, Graziano also includes a screenshot of an email apparently sent by management of the Bay Club to residents of the co-op, giving a phone number for Vallone’s campaign to call to arrange a ride to a polling site. According to another screenshot in his complaint, the number listed in the email was on the Facebook page of the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club, a group the councilman was once president of. The number is not on the page now, though.
The challenger also urged the CFB to look into whether Vallone’s campaign used funds from his office for the senior transportation program it funded earlier this year; Four Twos was also the company used during that initiative. However, Vallone said at Monday’s press conference that the funds for that program were used up by June.
Vallone’s side dismissed the complaint.
“Every ride provided to voters on primary day by Four Twos was authorized and paid for by our campaign,” the campaign said in an email. “Graziano continuing to pull allegations out of thin air without a single shred of evidence only goes to show that when you have done nothing, you have to rely on lies, deceit and shameful tactics.”