By Juan Soto
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) completed his first year in office on a high note when he gathered hundreds of people at the Children’s Christmas Parade in Bayside.
“It was a perfect symbol for where I want to go next year,” said the lawmaker during an interview at theTimesLedger Newspapers offices. The parade was about “all holidays in December,” he said. “It was cold, but you saw a thousand people marching on Bell Boulevard.”
He pointed out the holiday event “set the tone for things I want to do this year.”
Among those is a fireworks show for the 4th of July holiday weekend, he said.
“This event would give Queens residents an opportunity to enjoy their own pyrotechnic exhibition,” Vallone said. “Looking west to Manhattan for fireworks celebrating America’s independence would no longer be required.”
Vallone said the pyrotechnic display would be held at Fort Totten Park.
“We are getting the permits and we already included the show in the budget,” he said. “It’s going to be great,” he noted, adding that he will try to get local bands to play a concert at the park before the show comes on.
Spectators would be able to enjoy the fireworks show along Little Bay Park in Fort Totten and the shore.
He said the show would be held either July 1 or July 2.
Vallone pointed out the Bayside Historical Society, the Bayside Village Business Improvement District and the Bay Terrace Civil Alliance, among others, “are going to partner with us to do it.”
He is having fun in his first year as a legislator and his colleagues call him “the smiley councilman,”the freshman councilman said, but Vallone is not all smiles when it comes to defending his district and his principles.
He has said no a few times to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Vallone noted, for example, that he opposed the paid-sick leave bill and some public safety bills, but fortunately, there is no bad feelings from the top elected officials in the city.
In fact, he said the district received $7 million in city funds, up from about $2 million last year.
“Originally we did not support her [Mark-Viverito] as the speaker, but she treated all districts equally. Unity is one of her strengths,.”
He added, “We were the forgotten district in the eyes of the City Council.”
The councilman was also outspoken when word came around that Bayside was on the Department of Homeless Services’ radar to receive an emergency shelter.
“We are happy” the idea was rejected, Vallone said. “But it was a lot of phone calls and decisions going on on the background, where we were calling up saying ‘This is not the right spot,’” he said.
He explained the Bayside is not against homeless shelters, but he said it was necessary for people to take two trains and a bus to get to northeast Queens, and then a bus and two trains back the following day.
“It is a delicate balance because everyone deserves a chance to get back on their feet,” Vallone pointed out. “But it’s location, location, location.”
He said the idea was to establish emergency homeless shelters in some of the hotels along Northern Boulevard and the Cross Island Parkway.
“If you call and say use my hotel, they guarantee money for a night. It’s a win-win situation,” the legislator said.
Bayside, he added, has become the top zip code for senior citizens to call home.
As the chairman of the subcommittee on Senior Centers, he said the City Council created a senior task force to recommended changes to the laws and policies in relation with the Adult Protective Services.
He also said Bayside was tapped as an “age friendly district,” which will bring more funding to build more park benches, more speed bumps, more transportation alternatives and more senior services.
He said the voting is coming up to chose the projects to be funded through the Participatory Budget. The lawmaker noted that he is narrowing down the ideas to 10, and people are going to be able to vote from April 11 to April 19. “We are picking spots throughout the district so people can get to and vote,” Vallone said.
“It’s the first time we are doing it, but we will do it every year form now on,” he said, referring to the $ 1 million program in which constituents vote on their own ideas to fund capital projects. “It’s a million less for us to allocate, but it will work out.”
Vallone pointed out the bill he introduced in the city’s legislature aimed at curbing the illegal truck traffic, especially on Bell Boulevard and 32nd Avenue. As part of the legislation, the idea is to install “No thru truck commercial” signs, but the Department of Transportation said, “We don’t want negative signage,” Vallone said.
He noted 32nd Avenue, that stretches Bell Boulevard to College Point Boulevard, ranks in the top 10 “abused spots” in the city in relation to illegal truck traffic.
During his first year in office, he said he visited all schools in the district several times, and funded each academic center with $50,000.
“This district should be proud of the strength of the schools,” he said. “Kids are amazing.”
He added that the tennis courts at Bayside High School will be renovated, thanks to a program led by the USOpen.
“The tennis courts along 32nd Avenue are completely broken,” he said. “It will be a great resource for the summer.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.