Vallone’s Italy visit combines work with kin

During his visit to Sicily, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (second from l.) is surrounded by NYPD Liaison Mitchell Weiss (l. to r.), Italian Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Piero Grasso, New York Criminal Court Justice George Grasso, NYPD Deputy Chief Louis Croce Jr. and Palermo Regional President Giovanni Avanti. Photo courtesy Peter Vallone Jr.
By Rebecca Henely

As the son of the former City Council speaker, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) comes from a family of public servants, but he said he had not realized the extent of his family’s passion until he visited his ancestral home in Sicily for four days last month.

Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, went to the island off the coast of mainland Italy for the anniversary of the assassination of Judge Giovanni Falcone. While there, Vallone met with legislators and judges on law enforcement strategies as well as members of his family.

“This was the first time I’ve ever been,” Vallone said. “My family has been, but I wasn’t able to go, so I was looking forward to it for a long time.”

Falcone, then the national anti-Mafia prosecutor for Sicily, was a magistrate in the so-called Maxi Trial in the mid-1980s. Hundreds of Mafia members were convicted during the trial based on the testimony of Tommaso Buscetta, a Mafioso captured in Brazil. Falcone was killed by a roadside bomb May 23, 1992, while he was driving with his wife and two sons.

“I believe that’s what turned the Sicilian population against the Mafia,” said Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Vallone went to Palermo, Sicily, with current and former city law enforcement officials for a series of meetings and presentations held at the Ucciardone, where the Maxi Trial was held. Vallone also met with Piero Grasso, the current holder of Falcone’s position. While there the officials from both Palermo and New York City traded strategies on law enforcement.

“We learned that even they have a lot of disagreement over the best ways to do things over there, too,” Vallone said.

Vallone’s family comes from Sicily. In Palermo, he met with Pietro Vallone, a cousin of his who is a councilman for that city, and also learned of several other members of his extended family on the island. The Astoria lawmaker also met with police chiefs in the towns of Riesi, Taormina and Prizzi, where his grandfather was born, to discuss crime-fighting issues.

“It was a chance for me both to learn about law enforcement and also to learn about my history,” he said of his trip.

Vallone said his district in Astoria has a sizable Sicilian population, and many of the places he went to were the family names of people back in Astoria.

“Towns named after friends, there’s a street in my hometown of Pritti called Via Vallone,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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