Councilwoman Vickie Paladino (R-Whitestone) was barred from entering City Council chambers on Jan. 5 after refusing to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination. It is Council policy that all those entering the chamber floor be vaccinated against Covid.
Paladino’s vaccination status has been called into question for some time now; the New York Post previously reported that sources “close to” the councilwoman said that she is not vaccinated. Last week’s events have brought the issue to a head.
Asked by the Chronicle about the councilwoman’s vaccination status, Paladino’s son and spokesperson Thomas Paladino said, “We’re not going to disclose that.”
Having attempted to enter the chamber for the final vote on Councilwoman Adrienne Adams’ (D-Jamaica) speakership, Paladino tweeted that she agreed to leave the chamber “out of respect for her nomination.” However, Paladino emphasized that her willingness to step aside was a one-time event. “I also made it clear that this courtesy would only be for today, and that I will fight the mandates with every resource available,” she tweeted that day. “Going forward, if anyone has a problem with me in the chamber, they will have to remove me.”
Speaker Adams’ office remains equally steadfast in its decision to bar Paladino from the chamber. In a statement sent to the Chronicle, a spokesperson for the speaker said, “In the wake of the order issued by the City’s Health Commissioner requiring city employees be vaccinated, the City Council adopted a policy in the fall that no one who works at the Council is permitted to work at City Hall, 250 Broadway, or any Council District Office unless they have provided proof of vaccination.” The statement continues, “That remains the policy of the City Council. There will be no exceptions absent a valid request for a medical or religious accommodation.” Mayor Adams’ office referred the Chronicle back to the Council.
Still, Paladino has continued to go to her office since Jan. 5’s events. “She’s there every single day,” Thomas Paladino said.
When presented with that information, the same spokesperson from the Speaker’s Office said, “Council Member Paladino is not working out of a Council office. She is in the process of acquiring a new office, though she and her staff will have to follow the Council’s vaccination policy in order to use that new office — just like any other Council Member or employee.”
According to Thomas Paladino, the councilwoman is converting her campaign office, located at 20-15 Francis Lewis Blvd., into her district office.
Neighboring Councilman James Gennaro (D-Hillcrest) was adamant in his disapproval of Paladino’s actions. “You sought election to the Council, you swore your oath,” he told the Chronicle. “I think inherent in discharging one’s duty to the best of one’s ability — at a minimum — is following the rules of the Council.”
Gennaro also suggested that the attention Paladino has drawn to the issue and the attention the press has given to it hinders the councilwoman from doing her job. “The kind of news that we want to be making is about the progress that the Council is making — along with the administration — to solve these problems,” he said. “The news shouldn’t be about the councilmember.”
Paladino has long been outspoken against vaccine mandates. In an hour-long interview with NY1 earlier this week, she voiced the extent of her objection to such mandates when she said, “I don’t need to show you my papers. This is not Nazi Germany.”
For that, Paladino received public backlash from across the political spectrum, including Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), who is also opposed to vaccine mandates. On Jan. 11, Paladino released a statement apologizing for the remark, in which she said she “immediately regretted it” and “asked the reporter to strike it from the record.”
Gennaro publicly questioned the intentions behind Paladino’s apology. “Is her apology borne out of sincere regret or political calculation?” he tweeted Jan. 11. However, upon learning that Paladino is meeting with Jewish community leaders to discuss the incident, Gennaro told the Chronicle that he believes the apology is sincere.
For now, it seems that the Council and Paladino will remain in a standoff; who will flinch first is anyone’s guess.