Strictly Stasi
by Anthony Stasi
Aug 04, 2009 | 7049 views | 2 2 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New York City’s 19th City Council District is always one of the more fun districts to watch in an election. Because voters in this part of Queens are the most centrist in the city, it makes political races open and competitive. Eight years ago, Tony Avella won a tight race against Republican Dennis Saffran, and by tight we are talking about a margin of 500 votes.

Avella has had his sights on running for mayor and is not interested in running for a now-allowed third term. The City Council seat was a Republican seat for years when it was occupied by Mike Abel. Now, the district has a race again. The Democratic side is never at a loss for candidates. Most notably, there is Paul Vallone, son of former speaker Peter Vallone and brother of Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.

Vallone faces a double edged sword – he can enjoy the contacts and fundraising bump that comes from being a Vallone, but he has to introduce himself as a public servant in his own right that knows more about city politics than just this district and the district in which he grew up, Astoria.

Kevin Kim, a Democrat, is also an interesting candidate in this district because he has what we will see more and more of in local politicians: a lengthy academic background. This is a district that has a pretty strong Greek and Asian influence, and Kim might benefit from that as well. It’s a little crowded on the Democratic side.

Jerry M. Iannece, a former prosecutor and attorney and chairman of Community Board 11, is also one of the favorites for the Democratic Party nod.

The Republicans are running 38-year-old Dan Halloran. Halloran is a lifelong resident of the district, an attorney, and active member of St. Andrews church. Halloran is a conservative in the stripe of Senator Frank Padavan. But Padavan has struggled win slim majorities in his last few campaigns. When you speak to Halloran, you notice right away that his voice sounds every bit like that of Sean Hannity. I didn’t bring it up to him - my voice is identical to comedian Ray Romano’s and I hate hearing about it.

Halloran has the fortune of not having a primary, which means while Iannece, Vallone, Kim, and company spend money to defeat each other, Halloran can keep whatever he raises.

The issue that will follow this race is over-development. The 19th District includes Bayside, Bay Terrace, Auburndale, and College Point. These are the kind of neighborhoods where people stay after they grow up and have families of their own. The problem is, will these neighborhoods look the same? Or will blocks with a few homes give way to multi-unit dwellings, where profit comes from packing people in?

“In the 20 years that I lived on my block as a kid, (the neighborhood) changed. Every piece of land was a double lot,” said Halloran. “From when I was born to when I moved out at 21, three houses were knocked down and were replaced by multi-family dwellings. It radically altered the nature of the block. Parking was an issue. People were not part of the community…and that’s a shame.”

What you have in this race, aside from Vallone’s pedigree, is a race where most of the candidates are citizen-candidates. They have not served in elected office before. And that makes perfect sense, since this is a citizen’s position that should be held by someone closely connected to everyday life in the district. What is different in this race, as opposed to other races in other districts, is that the issues do not really center around how to make the area better, but instead on how to keep it as good as it is.

It’s interesting to hear candidates, either on their websites, on Youtube, or in person, stressing how long they have lived in the district. Those are direct shots at Vallone, who everyone knows is from a well-known Astoria family.

However, while moving from Arkansas to New York to run for the United States senate can be considered carpetbagging, moving from one neighborhood to another in the same city does not necessarily a carpetbagger make.

When this race is won, it should be won by the candidate that can keep the identity of the 19th district the way people have come to love it. People cannot choose the district in which they may have been born, but they can choose where they live, and many wise people choose to live in the 19th District.

You don’t often see polling in City Council races because it is ridiculously expensive, but in this even-handed district, Vallone, with his name and party affiliations, should have a slight lead – but it is slight at most.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Saint Andrew
September 13, 2009
Halloran is an active member of St. Andrews? Then maybe this can be explained:

How can any catholic or conservative support this behavior?
August 29, 2009

"When this race is won, it should be won by the candidate that can keep the identity of the 19th district the way people have come to love it."

In that case, Jerry Iannece is hands down the best man for the job. He's made the 19th District the wonderful place that it is today. You want to live in the overdeveloped dump that is Astoria? Move there, or vote for Paul Vallone.

Vallone's no good for the people of the 19th. It would be a real shame to see nepotism succeed again.