Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has been accused of doing a series of favors for campaign donors by his 2017 primary opponent, land use expert Paul Graziano.
“A council member is supposed to represent the interests and well-being of the residents and constituents of the Council District — all 160,000 of them,” Graziano said in an emailed statement after focusing on the allegations during a sitdown interview with the Chronicle. “Unfortunately, Paul Vallone has seemed to only be representing the interests of a selected group of his ‘clients’ since his election to City Council in 2013.”
Vallone declined repeated requests for comment on the allegations beyond a statement his office issued about one of the claims and none of the donors could be reached for comment.
In one case, the planning consultant said, Vallone opposed the extension of the Douglas Manor Historic District because of donations he received from a resident of the proposed area who is against it.
Frank White opposed the extension and gave $500 donations to Vallone each year for the past three years.
In a letter to Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairwoman Meekahshi Srinivasan, the councilman says that “landmark status imposes undue restrictions on the rights of homeowners to renovate, modify, or sell their properties as they wish.” He also notes that 12 of the 17 households in the area proposed for the expansion opposed it, and Community Board 11 had rejected it.
Graziano criticized Vallone’s remarks about landmarking in the letter to the commission chairwoman.
“If it were that case, why are so many neighborhoods desperate to be landmarked?” the planning consultant said, mentioning Broadway-Flushing as an example. “Because they want to protect their neighborhood from being destroyed by terrible development.”
Vallone did support two smaller landmarkings in his district that were opposed by the people who own the affected buildings, the Hawthorne Court Apartments and the Ahles House, both in Bayside. There is no record of either owner making any donation to Vallone.
“He voted for both with absolute owner opposition,” Graziano said.
In another area controversy, Vallone was initially supportive of the proposed high school at the Bayside Jewish Center site, which Graziano says is because last year he received a $250 donation — the maximum for people who do business with the city — from Stephen Aiello, the husband of School Construction Authority head Lorraine Grillo, and a $300 donation from Christine Colligan, the JHS 189 parent coordinator, who supported the project and spoke in favor of it at a Community Board 11 meeting.
The councilman later said he opposed the plan.