In the midst of a reunion he helped to organize at the historic Bullard family home in Flushing, civic activist Paul Graziano threw his hat into the city council race as a Green Party candidate to succeed longtime Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing).
Graziano, a preservationist who is in the process of trying to turn the Bullards home into a community center and a museum, announced his intentions Saturday to represent the 20th Council District, which stretches from Whitestone to Flushing and from Auburndale to College Point.
Graziano faces some tough competition for the seat from John Liu his high school classmate and former civic association cohort and Evergreen Chou, who Graziano must defeat in the only Green Party primary throughout the city. But the 30-year-old is optimistic and confident he can win the seat.
Part of what this is about is the community deciding what happens to their neighborhood themselves, Graziano told the crowd of more than 65. I have been fighting to save this community for the past seven years.
Graziano founded the Bayside Avenue Estates Civic Association, which is now called the North Flushing Civic Association. He left the civic after a disagreement with its present leader, Liu, on the direction in which the group should go.
Inside one of the boroughs last surviving mansions built before 1850 when Flushing was a summer get-a-way, Graziano said one of the main problems affecting the area and for the most part all of Queens was the zoning laws. He has been involved in many efforts to preserve historic properties and districts in the borough.
The laws permit a developer to come in and buy the mansion, he said, and then tear it down to put up an apartment building or three- and four-family homes, which would look out of place in todays world on the serene Ash Avenue.
Graziano brought together the three families who have owned the house the Bullards, the Eccles family, who bought the mansion from the Bullards, and the Kabriski family, the present owners to celebrate its continued existence and discuss his plans for saving the glorious house.
I think this place is wonderful, said Mary Bullard Rousseau, whose father lived in the house. I had never seen it until Paul brought us here, but knew it existed. Preserving the house is very important for future generations.
Graziano said the growth and development of the area where he grew up has been helter skelter and with out rhyme or reason.
I will be 30 in nine days and Flushing has changed a lot over the years, he said. Just because change has occurred, it does not have to be bad.
He said there have been many developments, both legal and illegal, which look out of place in the neighborhood.
We need to get the kind of development that the people of the community want, he said. Urban development is one of the biggest problems in the city and across the state.
His goal is to work toward rezoning parts of Flushing, which would protect about 95 percent of the housing stock and allow for the continued development in other sections of the community.
In the City Council, he said, his expertise is in planning and zoning laws, will help to stabilize communities that are getting overrun by development. In addition, he said he has ideas on continuing economic growth without hurting neighborhoods.
I feel I am the best person to do the job, he said. I have the background in planning, politics and have been a community activist since 1994.
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2001 Community News Group
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