City Council foes face off in northeast Queens

By Mark Hallum

The Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association held a candidates night last week for City Council members and their challengers to speak about prostitution, landmarking and traffic in the districts they want to represent.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) spoke about crime while his opponent, land use expert Paul Graziano, discussed how he is better suited to take on zoning issues. Alison Tan then pitched her experience before Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) highlighted spoke about overcrowding in downtown Flushing.

Robert Hanophy Jr., the immediate past president of the association, led the discussion at Church on the Hill, located at 167-07 35th Ave. The gathering broached topics such as prostitution, overcrowding in Flushing and individual experience.

One question addressed the issue of what some are calling a “mini-red light district” by the Broadway train station of the LIRR near 164th Street and Crocheron Avenue. Prostitution arrests have been made at 24-hour spas in the area and women have been seen loitering.

“Nothing good can come out of a 24-hour spa,” Vallone said, pointing out that enforcement of spas is difficult for the understaffed 109th Precinct to tackle, especially considering restrictions on officers’ legal right to investigate activities within buildings without a search warrant. Vallone said the 109th Precinct was one of the first to get the Neighborhood Community Officer program and now has about 90 officers on patrol to address issues of this nature.

Residents of Broadway-Flushing who are interested in landmarking were curious as to why having locations in their neighborhood designated as historic places was difficult. Graziano claimed the Landmarks Preservation Commission was biased against suburban areas.

“This has been going on for 50 years, but there’s two problems,” Graziano said, explaining there are Council members who are unwilling to approve designation after the LPC comes to a decision. “Unfortunately, the way the law is written, [The LPC] is able to decide, in a very subjective manor, what is considered a landmark and what is not, and that is very political.”

An active proponent on landmarking, Graziano pointed out that he put the wheels in motion for the Bayside’s Ahles house and Hawthorne Court Apartments to be designated, while Vallone had finalized the approval.

Alison Tan, the wife of Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), stood up to the accusation she is too young and inexperienced to serve. She claimed she has been successful at the real estate capital advisory firm where she works and is a 36-year-old mother of two.

“I’ve had a very successful career in the private sector and I’ve arranged over $7 billion of capital in real estate finance. I know what it’s like to navigate through difficult situations and complicated problems,” Tan said, pointing out that she climbed the ladder in a male-dominated profession. “But I work through those obstacles, I’ve made those accomplishments, and I’ve become one of the youngest managing directors at my firm.”

Koo said he plans to maintain quality of life for his constituents in face of the growing population of downtown Flushing, with the focus centering around transportation infrastructure and street capacity.

“Downtown Flushing is different because we are also a transportation hub,” Koo said, claiming that parking and traffic are not the issues they seem to be. “We have the 7 train, LIRR and more than 27 buses all ending in downtown Flushing.”

Koo proposed developing services that help drivers find where spots free to the public are available off the most heavily used streets.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

More from Around New York