Standing in front of his former elementary school, PS 122 in Astoria, just down the block from the rent-controlled apartment where he was born and the two-family home where he lives today, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) officially joined the race for mayor last Thursday.
Vallone, who has been campaigning for the citys top spot for some time, is the dark horse in the Democratic race that includes favorites Public Advocate Mark Green, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. Republicans seeking the job are media mogul Michael Bloomberg and former Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo.
Vallone asked the crowd of more than 200 supporters and students from PS 122 at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd. to join him in his fight to create a better future and to improve the citys school system, create affordable housing, keep the neighborhoods safe and fortify the citys future for all New Yorkers.
New York City cannot thrive in the 21st century with a population that is half-rich and half-poor, he said. To be prosperous and secure, the center must hold.
And the center of New York, the core of our citys past, present and future, is opportunity, he said, opportunity for everyday New Yorkers to build meaningful lives and strong neighborhoods.
The announcement made under the noonday sun last Thursday came on the heels of what could be considered a moral blow to Vallone, who was passed over as the choice of the Queens Democratic Party. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Manton, the partys leader, endorsed Hevesi for mayor.
Vallone reflected on the time he spent working with three different mayors, building a consensus on important issues and leading a diverse City Council of 51 members from all walks of life.
He pointed to one educational policy he formulated in his 25 years on the City Council that cuts tuition in half for students graduating from high school with a B average or better who attend a city university.
In addition, he cited the Smart Kids/Smart City plan that will reduce class size, improve teacher training and recruitment, and raise standards by putting an extra $500 million into the citys classrooms.
Vallone emphasized the importance of improving the relationship between the Police Department and the community. He said he issued a Blueprint for Reform, which recommended how the city could improve the performance and racial and ethnic diversity of the NYPD.
He also pointed to his Safe Streets/Safe Neighborhoods program, which helped to add 10,000 new officers to the force and trained them to make sure a persons civil rights were not violated.
Thats government that works for the people, Vallone said. That is what Ed Koch talked about: we are here to serve you, not for you to serve us.
Former Mayor Koch, who has endorsed Vallone, introduced him to the crowd.
City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing), one of Vallones supporters, said the speaker has spent 25 years in the City Council and knows the city and how the city works. She said if Vallone does not get the keys to Gracie Mansion, the city will face hard times caused by the large turnover in the City Council.
Of the Councils 51 seats, 36 are open because term limits prevent the incumbents from seeking reelection.
I came because I believe he is doing a good job and will do a good job as mayor, said Kenneth Argo of Queens Village. It was very moving. I am glad I came.
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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