District 22 Astoria
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: DISTRICT 22

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?
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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Peter F. Vallone Jr., Dem 11,311 - 54 percent
Sandra Vassos, Rep 6,849 - 33 percent
John J. Ciafone, Lib 1,854 - 9 percent
Gerald F. Kann, Grn 576 - 3 percent
Michael A. Mascitti, Ind 261 - 1 percent

Primary Election Results

Peter F. Vallone Jr. 5,446
John J. Ciafone 3,310
Mike Zapiti 1,031
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Peter Vallone, Sr (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:


For contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to John Ciafone
Contributors to Gerald F. Kann
Contributors to Michael Mascitti
Contributors to Peter Vallone Jr.
Contributors to Sandra Vassos
Contributors to Mike Zapiti

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 22


Issue Statements:
District 22 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org


Campaign Tangle:
If the ruling by the Board of Elections stands, George Poulos, Sandra Vassos and Mike Mascitti will not appear on the Democratic line in the September 11 primary. Poulos is still considering whether to appeal the ruling. Vassos is appealing a challenge by Peter Vallone, Jr. and the Queens Democratic Party. (See the Campaign Update for more details.)

Posted 8/6/01


Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Astoria's Bid for Power

For years, Astoria, Queens has had the most powerful person in City Council representing its interests. Since Peter Vallone was elected Speaker in 1986, virtually nothing has happened in City Council without his approval. And his leadership has produced for his district.

Recently, Vallone has been successful in securing $2.5 million for the expansion of the Kaufman Astoria Studios, which hopes to make the area a top location to produce movies and television shows. He also thwarted plans for the construction of the N train to La Guardia Airport that would have created construction in his district, and he stalled proposals to build more electricity plants in Queens. There are already three major power plants in the Astoria, two of which are rated among the dirtiest in the state, and proposals for four more plants alongside them.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district, click here.

Race:

  • White: 50%
  • Black: 11%
  • Asian: 10%
  • Hispanic: 29%

Median income: $ 44,086 (Ranked 30th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 7%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

Now with the Speaker's departure, Astoria is losing its favored status and fears becoming just another council district. If Vallone is successful in his bid to be mayor, on the other hand, they may stop worrying.

Though there are seven candidates vying to succeed him, many with strong roots in local politics, and though as a mayoral candidate Vallone cannot afford to alienate anybody in his home base, the Speaker has nevertheless come out with an early and strong endorsement.

"My mother would be very upset with him if he didn't endorse his own son," explains Peter Vallone, Jr., a 39-year-old lawyer who has worked as a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney. Vallone, Jr. says he aims to begin where his father left off by stopping new electrical power plant construction.

"The New York Power Authority is making Queens the ashtray for the entire state," says Vallone, Jr., who is also pro bono counsel for C.H.O.K.E. (Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment).

But Vallone is not necessarily a shoo-in. For one, there have been some questions raised in the press about where he actually lives -- about whether he is using an address in the district just for the election.

Then there are other candidates who have name recognition, though of a different sort. One is Mike Zapiti, owner of the Zapiti Driving School and host of "The Zapiti TV Show," a show featuring politicians on a local cable station. Zapiti campaigns as one who can rectify the failures of the educational system in Queens and keep Astoria safe and clean.

George Delis has been district manager for Community Board 1 in Astoria for 24 years and has been a public voice on local issues like outdoor billboards, job creation, and economic development. But Delis says he is not yet running full-throttle for the seat. For one thing, he has supported two of the other candidates in the race when they ran for other offices, Kimon Thermos and John Ciafone.

Other candidates include Reverend Marvin Bentley, pastor of a Baptist church.

Ultimately, whoever wins in District 22 will be representing a different neighborhood than the one that first elected Vallone in 1974.

In Astoria, the Latino population has grown while the Greek and Italian populations have shrunk. The area also has the highest influx of immigrants from Bangladesh and Egypt of any district in the city. And a migration of young professionals leaving Manhattan and Brooklyn for affordable rents have brought clubs, restaurants, and art galleries to the area.

The new council member will represent this "new" Astoria.

Campaign Update:

Candidates in district 22 are being challenged, knocked off the ballot, and appealing the decisions.

"Petition challenges are part of the electoral process," said Evan Stavisky a political consultant for the Vallone, Jr. campaign, who has filed challenges.

George Poulos, who has been knocked off the ballot, is debating whether to appeal the decision. Poulos even wrote a letter to the editor of the Queens Courier pleading with the candidates in district 22 not to contest each other1s petitions. "It is unfair to knock off a person off the ballot on minor technicalities," said Poulos.

"We should be encouraging voters to participate in the process, not using excuses to exclude them because of the ways they signed their names," said John Bougiamas, campaign manager for Sandra Vassos. Vassos is currently fighting a petition challenge from Vallone, Jr. One type of petition challenge Vassos faces has to do with a voter who writes a first name as a nickname. She points out that a name like Costantino can be shortened to Costas or even Gus. "As a Greek American it hurts me that my family1s heritage is questioned based on names, nicknames, and nomenclature," said Vassos.

Vassos, who had planned to run on both the Democratic and Republican party lines, came up short by thirty-nine signatures on her petitions for the Democratic party, but she will still be on the ballot in November as a Republican.

Even as Vassos fights the legal challenges on her petitions she is continuing her campaign. She feels the elected position of a city council member provides a unique ability to understand the needs of the community and plans to advocate for more public hearings on issues like the proposed expansion of the N train to LaGuardia Airport.

Michael Mascitti, who survived on the Independence line, but will not be on the Democratic party line, wants to focus on fixing the schools and abolishing the Board of Education. "All the people who want to fix the (educational) problem are the lawyers or the people that screwed it up in the first place," said Mascitti.

One of the reasons Mascitti decided to run was that he does not want Vallone, Jr. to just assume he can fill his father1s seat. "I think it is a mockery of everything America stands for that many politicians just assume their children can take their position," he said.

One of John Ciafone1s focuses is quality of life issues for students. As a leader in School Board 30, he fought for doors to be placed on bathroom stalls, school uniforms and increased police presence in and outside schools.

Posted 8/06/01


Candidate Biographies:

John Ciafone has been the vice president of School Board 30 for the last five years. Ciafone holds a degree in political science from New York University and a law degree from St. John1s University. He currently owns his own law practice. Ciafone has also worked in the legal division at City Council and has been elected judicial delegate for the 11th judicial district.

Jerry Kann has been a writer and a teacher. He is a member of the National Writers Union and has been a political activist for the Green party for the last six years. He has been an opponent of the New York Power Authority and the plan to construct power plants in Long Island City. He is a graduate of Cleveland State University and has lived in Astoria since 1995.

Michael Mascitti has worked as a teacher at I.S. 10 since 1995 and as also worked as a lighting board operator at NBC Sports for six years. Mascitti holds a BA from Hunter College in History and Religion and a minor in Classical Studies. In 1995, Mascitti earned a masters degree in Science in Teaching from New School University.

George Poulos has been an attorney for 15 years.

Peter Vallone, Jr. is a managing partner at Vallone & Vallone Law firm. He was an Assistant District Attorney for six years, and is counsel for a local environmental group and the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Brooklyn.

Sandra Vassos is the executive director of Athens College, a K-12 American school based in Europe. Vassos holds a BA and a Masters of Public Administration from New York University. She has also worked at Urban Public Relations.

Mike Zapiti is the owner of a driving school, a real estate and insurance agent, and a pilot.


Campaign Trail

9/5/01

Newsday announces its endorsements in a number of Queens City Council races.

District 19: Jerry Iannece's "legal experience and community activism make him qualified. Each of his opponents - particularly Arthur Cheliotes, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1180, and the party-backed Tony Avella. . . is a credible candidate. But Iannece has the most innovative ideas for addressing the district's needs."

District 20. "John Liu, the party designee, could have avoided some last-minute controversy had he used better judgment. As a member of Community Board 7 in Flushing, he voted last year with the majority to approve a variance for a development company whose partners include a campaign contributor. Liu, an actuary, should have recused himself. . . . We hope he has learned something about appearances. Still, his energy and impressive command of the issues make up for his lack of political acumen. And while his civic service isn't as long as that of opponent Ethel Chen, he seems better suited to alleviate the tensions between old-time residents and new immigrants.

District 21. "Despite the ethnic conflict dividing various Latino communities in the district, the four candidates - all Latinos - are evenly matched. . . .Luis Rosero is the most appealing. . . .His background gives him intimate knowledge of government and politics. His contacts at the federal level wouldn't hurt, either. He also understands the common concerns of a diverse population."

District 22. "As a member of Queens School Board 30, John Ciafone has worked diligently on behalf of school kids. . . . But Ciafone made a mistake that we cannot overlook: His ads in a local weekly newspaper boasted of endorsements by mayoral candidates Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green. Such endorsements never existed. Ciafone says the ads should have read "supported," not "endorsed" - a stretch, to say the least. . . . That leaves Peter Vallone Jr., the party's designee. Voters get more than a name with Vallone. He helped found a community group to fight power plants in western Queens. And he has learned something from watching his father's success as Council speaker. Newsday endorses Vallone."

District 23. "David Weprin is a Democratic district leader, his brother is a state assemblyman, and their late father was Assembly speaker. By contrast, Jairam Thakral immigrated from India 30 years ago, got an MBA from St. John's and recently retired as chief financial officer of the State Veterans Home on Long Island. Thakral emphasizes his financial experience in dealing with city, state and federal governments. . . . He contrasts his "diversity" with Weprin's "dynasty." Weprin, a lawyer, was the state's deputy superintendent of banks. . . . Thakral radiates eagerness to improve the city's quality of life, but Weprin has more experience and a deeper knowledge of the district. We endorse Weprin.

District 24. "The three candidates are already on the public payroll. Barry Grodenchik is Borough President Claire Shulman's chief administrative officer. He emphasizes the downside of the 2012 Olympics, which he says could freeze development in western Queens and shut down much of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for years. James Gennaro has been a policy analyst for the City Council since 1990, specializing in environmental issues. He's positive on the 2012 Olympics but negative on destroying Flushing Meadows wetlands to create a rowing course for the games. David Reich, chief of staff to a state senator from Brooklyn, cites his experience drafting bills in Albany . Gennaro offers greater familiarity with the council and broader concern for the environment. We endorse Gennaro."

District 25. "The organization person in this multi-candidate race is Helen Sears, a longtime district leader and community affairs director at Elmhurst Hospital Center. . . . Louisa Chan, a nurse and three-term secretary of School Board 24, wants community school boards to have more power and the central board to be elected. Magdalena Schultheis, vice president of an international hospitality consulting firm, would like to cut back bureaucracy to produce more affordable housing. James Van Bramer, community affairs manager for the Queensborough Public Library, has been an activist for campaign finance reform as well as gay and lesbian rights. . . .Finally, Rudolph Greco is a lawyer, civic enthusiast and author of a children's history of Jackson Heights. Along with a dedicated tax to provide higher teacher pay and smaller classes, he would encourage corporate partnerships to improve schools. Greco is a convivial, seasoned, one-of-a-kind candidate with a shrewd grasp of the district's needs and possibilities. Newsday endorses Greco. (Newsday)

7/10/01
George Delis was prepared to run to succeed Peter Vallone in the district 22 Astoria seat of the City Council, until Peter Vallone Jr. entered the race, and received the Queens Democratic Party organization endorsement. Delis dropped out, afraid to continue running because his current job is a political appointment. "Term limits did not go far enough," he said. "Is it fair that a son should move in and the party hands him the seat?" As many as 11 of the 35 open seats are being sought by relatives of the departing representatives. (NY Times)

4/26/01
Peter Vallone Jr. spoke at the Aldos Democratic Club, which is not officially recognized by the Queens Democratic Party. The county only recognizes one club called Taminent Regular Democratic Club, of which both Vallone Sr. and Jr. are members. Unofficially, the Taminent faction will probably endorse Vallone Jr. and the Aldos will endorse Ciafone. (AstoriaTimes.com)

4/5/01
Candidates vying for the seat vacated by Vallone Sr. are not worried about competing with the son of the Speaker at City Council. (AstoriaTimes.com)

2/18/01
In Astoria: Mayoral candidate and Council Speaker Peter Vallone's son, Peter Vallone Jr., far outpaces his Democratic opponents in endorsements and money, with $75,000. His nearest rival lists $200. (Daily News)

2/4/01
Peter Vallone Jr. used his father's connections to raise $75,495 in his bid to keep the Astoria Council seat in the family, according to Campaign Finance Board records. Lobbyist Martin McLaughlin, political consultant Norman Adler and Council lawyer Richard Weinberg are among those linked to the father who helped the son. Tena Vallone - senior's wife and junior's mother - chipped in with a $2,500 check to her son. (Daily News)

1/17/01
A feature article on George Delis (Queens Gazette)

11/28/00
Surveying the field of potential city council candidates for District 22. (Queens Tribune)

05/31/00
Feature article on candidate Mike Zapiti. (Queens Gazette)

03/01/00
The Astoria Line by Jarret Murphy. This article sheds some more light on Vallone Jr. and his relationship with his father. (City Limits)


 

 

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.


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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
DemocracyNet
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
DL21C
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.


Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)


2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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