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Photo by Robert W. LoScalzo
Photo by Robert W. LoScalzo
State Senator Tony Avella (left) endorsing Paul Graziano (right).

A lawmaker representing northeast Queens is backing a non-incumbent candidate for the contested local City Council seat.

State Senator Tony Avella has endorsed preservationist Paul Graziano, 46, in the Democratic primary for the 19th Council District seat. The position, which represents areas including College Point, Whitestone, Flushing, Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck, is currently held by Councilman Paul Vallone, who is seeking re-election.

Avella previously held the 19th District seat from 2002 to 2009. He was first elected to the State Senate in 2010.

“As the former Council member for this district, I know what it takes to effectively represent the people,” Avella said. “Paul Graziano is the right person for the job. I have worked with him closely for over a decade on multiple issues that have had great impact on the neighborhoods of northeast Queens. Paul understands what the people of the district want and need.”

Avella also endorsed Graziano, a lifelong Flushing resident and civic activist, in his first run against Vallone for the seat. At a public endorsement in Bayside on July 14, the State Senator said Graziano would be “a wonderful asset” to both the city and himself.

“Instead of having to fight what the current Councilmember does, I’d have an ally, and we would work together, as we do now, even though he’s not in public office,” Avella said.

In a prepared statement, Graziano said he was “greatly honored” to receive the Avella’s endorsement.

“We have stood together to successfully fight many proposals and plans that would have negatively impacted our district and also worked closely on passing major legislation and actions that have been incredibly beneficial for northeast Queens, such as contextual rezonings, obtaining landmark status for individual buildings and historic districts and, just last month, stopping the giveaway of 45 acres of public parkland for the development of a megamall in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” Graziano said.

Graziano highlighted overdevelopment, overcrowding, lack of services and traffic issues as priorities for the district.

“More than 95 percent of the 19th Council District is within the boundaries of Senator Avella’s 11th State Senate District,” Graziano said. “With both of us representing northeast Queens together, I believe we will be able to do that much more for our neighborhoods.”

Paul Vallone, an attorney and son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., was elected to the council seat in 2013. He replaced Republican incumbent Dan Halloran, who declined to seek re-election after being indicted on federal corruption charges of which he was ultimately convicted.

Vallone was most recently endorsed by Congressman Tom Suozzi.

“Avella’s endorsement speaks for itself as the IDC Senator has once again turned his back on the entire Democratic Party, our community leaders, elected officials, unions and organizations that all stand united with us,” Vallone said in a statement.

The Democratic primary election will take place on Sept. 12.

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