ASTORIA — Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., considered a heavyweight contender for borough president, told DNAinfo Thursday that he is mulling a run next year, but denied reports he's ambitious, saying he'd prefer to stay in his term-limited Council seat.
Vallone Jr. said he would use the borough presidency as a pulpit to fight for Queens, but preferred to keep his family's legacy alive in Astoria. The neighborhood has been represented by Vallone or his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., since 1974.
"I love being on the City Council and in fact if there were no term limits that’s where I would stay," Vallone said. "I’ve read that I’m ambitious and it’s the opposite of true. I just love public service, but if I could stay here at the lowest level of public service, which is closest to the people on the street, that’s where I would stay."
A New York Magazine headline labeled Vallone "ambitious" in a 2007 blurb about his anti-graffiti campaign that included attacks on urban fashion scion and graffiti supporter Marc Ecko. He also earned an aggressive reputation for his criticism of Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the 2006 blackout and the 2010 blizzard.
Vallone, whose City Council term expires on Dec. 31, 2013, said that he most enjoys interacting with constituents in his western Queens district, which includes Astoria and Long Island City as well as parts of Jackson Heights and Rikers, Randalls and Wards islands.
During an interview at a cafe opposite his 31st Street office, Vallone said he loves meeting one-on-one with residents. As if on cue, a man in an adjacent booth interrupted Vallone and began complaining about a landlord who he said does not recycle. Vallone politely advised the man to call his office.
He said few consitutents would approach the borough president in such a fashion.
"I would stay right here [in the City Council] if I could but I can’t," Vallone said. "And since I love public service, I’m forced to look at other open offices."
Vallone has also expressed interest in running for district attorney, but he told DNAinfo he will not challenge Richard Brown, who has held the post since 1991.
He noted that he would be able to advocate for Queens-wide issues more often as borough president than he currently does in the Council.
"Being able to do that as borough president ... would give me much more of a pulpit and hopefully make me a more effective advocate for the people of Queens," Vallone said.
Unlike some Council members in Queens who stick to neighborhood issues, Vallone has consistently inserted himself into borough-wide controversies. He voiced sharp opposition to the re-naming of the Queensborough Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch and fought last year for an animal shelter in the borough.
"I’ve led the fight to protect Queens," he said.
But Vallone also praised others in the rumored field for the borough president's race, which includes Councilman Leroy Comrie of St. Albans, state Sen. Jose Peralta of East Elmhurst and Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Flushing.
"Those are three of the nicest people in public service," Vallone said. "Queens would be in good hands with any of them."
Vallone also hailed his former City Council colleague, current Comptroller John Liu, who was viewed as a strong mayoral candidate until a recent fundraising scandal sent him tumbling in the polls.
"I would never count John Liu out - never," Vallone said. "He is a rock star in his community. He is personally a very nice guy. He’s facing some tough questions on some difficult issues but I would never count him out."