Paul Vallone sworn in to Council seat by former speaker

By Christina Santucci

About 500 people packed PS 169’s auditorium Saturday to witness the third member of the Vallone family being ceremonially sworn into the City Council.

Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) placed his left hand on a Bible and raised the other as his father, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., performed the inauguration while the new northeast Queens councilman’s wife and children looked on.

“The beauty of my story is not that it’s just mine. It’s all of ours,” Paul Vallone said, thanking elected officials, religious leaders and supporters. “Every community leader that is in this room felt that same vision to make our neighborhoods what they are today,”

Paul Vallone defeated Democratic challengers Austin Shafran, Paul Graziano, John Duane and Chrissy Voskerichian in the September primary before winning out over Republican Dennis Saffran in the November election for the seat.

“When I started this journey with you, I promised to the 19th District to celebrate every faith and religious organization, to join in support of every ethnic and cultural institution. Today’s ceremony is a celebration of that promise,” Paul Vallone said.

Former city Comptroller John Liu recognized the legacy of the Vallone family, including Liu’s former Council colleague, Peter Vallone Jr., Paul’s brother.

“I used to be introduced as the first Asian American [in city government] and he would joke that he was not even the first Peter Vallone,” Liu said. “You come from a family with such a distinguished name. Sometimes there are labels put on you, but I have to say to you that Paul Vallone is one of the most hardworking, diligent people that I have ever met.”

Liu praised Paul Vallone’s continued involvement in the community even after he lost the 19th District race in the Democratic primary to Kevin Kim in 2009. Kim, who attended Saturday’s ceremony with his daughter Beatrice, was later defeated by former Republican Councilman Dan Halloran, who opted not to run again for the office after he was indicted on federal bribery charges.

Borough President Melinda Katz remembered meeting Paul Vallone during his previous run for the Bayside seat in 2009 and talking with him about the borough’s diversity.

“Queens will test you every single day of the week as an elected official,” she said. “He understands the seriousness of it, but he brings lightheartedness and the capacity to put people into a room to make sure we get compromise.”

City Public Advocate Letitia James advised Paul Vallone to make sure his family and constituents were the top priorities.

“There are 51 members of the City Council and you represent this one district,” James said. “You should never compromise the interests of your district. They come first.”

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and Steve Israel (D-Melville), as well as former Rep. Gary Ackerman joined state Assembly members Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Ron Kim (D-Flushing), state Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Council members Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) on stage for the ceremony. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and city Comptroller Scott Stringer both spoke.

Both Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), who were competing for the Council speaker post, made brief appearances at the ceremony. Mark-Viverito was elected to the post Wednesday.

Chuck Apelian, who served as Paul Vallone’s campaign manager, was unable to attend because he was recuperating from spinal surgery, but his daughter Lauren Cornea read from a statement on his behalf.

“After 25 years on Community Board 7 and working with all levels of government, I witnessed District 19 — a vital, fertile, hardworking community — be forgotten. What we needed was great leadership and I saw that special and rare talent in Paul Vallone.”

Paul Vallone concluded the program by presenting his first official Council proclamation to Kevin and Tina Lynch of Whitestone, whose house won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” contest.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.

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