JACKSON HEIGHTS — Queens borough president candidate Tony Avella pushed his rival's buttons at a forum about the environment Monday night, accusing city Councilman Peter Vallone of cheating on questions through text messages.
In between questions about the future of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, bike paths and green jobs, state Sen. Tony Avella declared that members of Vallone's campaign were texting him answers from the audience.
There were about a half-dozen Vallone volunteers, clad in bright yellow "Team Vallone" t-shirts, in the back of the room inside the Community Methodist Church in Jackson Heights, where the debate was held.
Vallone denied the accusation, though he did admit he was on his phone.
"I was just texting with my daughter, who needs a ride home, and I get accused of cheating," Vallone said after the forum. "It's typical of his campaign."
Vallone was also tweeting during the forum, which he said he thinks is important.
"[Avella] doesn't understand Twitter, apparently," he said. "I don't even think he has Twitter." (He does, although he's not as active as Vallone.)
The awkward exchange was brushed off by the other candidates, who continued to answer questions from the moderators and audience about the environmental future of Queens.
Vallone, Avella and Republican candidate Tony Arabascio were the first to introduce their environmental ideas at the forum, which was sponsored by the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Asked what they'd do in their first 100 days in office, they said they would secure the borough's shores, which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and protecting it's parks.
Vallone said the first thing he would do is protect the Rockaway peninsula, noting that eight months after the storm it's still largely unguarded.
He'd also continue with some of the environmental issues he'd tackled in the City Council, including removing flouride from the water supply, he said.
Avella's first priority, he said, would be to prevent the removal of any more public park land in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
He'd then work to protect Rockaway and other neighborhoods in southern Queens, with the installation of sand dunes and HESCO barriers.