Vallone Touts Small Business and Public Safety in Queens BP Bid
ASTORIA — If he wasn’t a public servant, maybe he would have been a rock star.
City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. says his musical talents — he plays bass, drums, guitar and piano — might have landed him a place in the spotlight if he’d chosen a path other than politics.
“Before I went to law school I actually had a music contract that I was about to sign – my band was going to be signed – and I had to decide whether I was going to tour the country or go to law school,” Vallone said in an interview with DNAinfo.com New York earlier this year.
“That conversation with my dad lasted about three minutes,” he said. “I went to law school.”
Law school eventually landed him in his current gig: City Council rep for Astoria.
And with his third and final term coming to an end this year, Vallone is gearing up for what he hopes will be his next job, jumping into a crowded race for Queens Borough President to replace term-limited Helen Marshall.
Vallone officially kicked off his campaign Monday night with a party at Ovelia on 30th Avenue.
“I love what I’m doing and if I could stay doing this, I would. I’m not one of those people who got into public service to move up, to see how far I could go,” Vallone said.
“Because I love public service and was taught about public service by my father and my grandfather, I would love to continue to do it — not just for the people of Astoria, but for all of Queens.”
Vallone, 51, comes from a storied family of local politicians: his grandfather was a judge and has an Astoria public school named after him. His father is former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and his brother, Paul Vallone, is running for a council seat in Bayside. The family’s law practice, on 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard, has been open since 1932.
But Vallone Jr. has a reputation of his own, known for his often outspoken views.
“[My father], he’s the only person who can spend 27 years in government and come out with no enemies,” Vallone said with a laugh.
“I’ve been in 11 years and I probably have a few more enemies than he does," he added. "We have different styles, let’s put it that way.”
Vallone credits his aggressive style for how he gets things done. He points to his battles against Astoria's power plants, the renaming of the Queensboro Bridge, the relocation of the Civic Virtue statue to Brooklyn, and his fight with the city for neglecting Queens when it came to plowing after the 2010 blizzard.
“There are so many Queens fights that I’ve already led, it seems like a natural thing for me to keep doing,” Vallone said.
“I’m sick of Queens getting messed with. I’m sick of them taking our bridges, taking our statues, taking our money, taking our cops.”
In the borough president race, the councilman will face off against former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, fellow Councilman Leroy Comrie, State Sens. Tony Avella and Jose Peralta and Barry Grodenchik, a former state assemblyman and longtime Borough Hall staffer.
“They’re all very good people,” Vallone said of his competitors. “Queens is very lucky to have a bunch of good candidates. Other boroughs don’t have that choice right now.”
Still, he says he’s the choice that stands out above the rest, touting his stance as a supporter of small businesses and his own experience as a local business owner — he ran the family law firm for 10 years, he said, before he started his public service career as a prosecuting attorney.
“There are almost no other elected officials with any business experience. They just pass laws to regulate small businesses and raise taxes and ask for more enforcement, and they have no idea how that affects small businesses,” he said.
“Queens is a borough of small businesses. That’s the backbone of Queens,” he added. “And I’m the only person running for borough president…who is a small business person.”
Vallone also says his strength as a candidate lies in his unwavering support for the NYPD.
Chair of the City Council’s public safety committee, he’s been an outspoken proponent for expanding police resources, and has defended the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic. He plans to introduce a resolution on Wednesday that would ask the MTA to display photos of convicted sex offenders in subway stations.
At his campaign kickoff party on Monday, Vallone received the endorsement of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and its president, Norman Seabrook.
“I’ve been standing, sometimes alone, against police cuts,” Vallone said, saying he thinks the city’s spike in overall crime numbers the past two years is due to a drop in the number of working cops.
“It is a huge concern to me that that’s because we don’t have enough cops. They’re spread so thin,” he said.
“Cops, from Queens precincts especially, are pulled out constantly for parades, for sport activities, for protests, to babysit Occupy Wall Street ,” he said, saying public safety will be his “number one priority” if he’s elected borough president.
“I’m going to work on keeping the streets safe, I’m going to work on keeping the streets clean, I’m going to make sure that our businesses thrive,” he said. “Those are going to be my priorities.”
When it comes to campaign dollars, Vallone is well above his competitors — his Vallone for New York committee raised over a $1.4 million, according to campaign filings, making him “fully funded” for the race, he says.
Campaign filings also show another committee, People for Vallone, has raised over $100,000 — though Vallone says he’s not considering a run for state office.
“I never really thought seriously about Albany,” he said.
A divorced father of two, Vallone says he’ll get a chance to spend more time with his kids if his borough president plans don’t work out. He plays on a volleyball team with his younger daughter, a senior at the St. Francis Preparatory School, while his older daughter is a freshman in college at Notre Dame.
He says he doesn’t harbor any regrets about his lost musical career.
“I can’t imagine being better off than I am now, in a better position than I am right now,” he said.
“You like to think you’d be opening for Aerosmith, but I’d probably be the old guy in the bar band if I went a different route.”