In the third scheduled debate for the 19th Council District, Paul Graziano and other candidates discussed their differences at an event at the Bayside Historical Society at Fort Totten, sponsored by that organization as well as the Historic Districts Council and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
As the forum was focused upon overdevelopment, preservation and environmental issues that affect the 19th Council District and beyond, the bulk of the questions, from both the organizations and the audience, stayed on point.
Unlike most of his opponents who focused on having at least a significant majority of residents in favor of landmarking before they would give their support if elected to the City Council, Graziano gave unqualifying support to landmarking all critical buildings and neighborhoods in the 19th Council District.
"Saving our neighborhoods from being destroyed is the number one historic preservation issue in this district," stated Graziano. "If we had [only] majority rule, half of the neighborhoods that are landmarked in the City of New York would never have been landmarked. We wouldn't have Grand Central Station landmarked, we wouldn't have the Empire State Building landmarked and we wouldn't have other neighborhoods that want to be landmarked, landmarked. In Broadway-Flushing, 85% of the neighborhood wants to be landmarked, but as I said: when you have places like the Ahles House [in Bayside] or you have neighborhoods that have been artificially severed off like the Douglaston [Historic District] Extension there is no issue with having 50%. It deserves to be protected. We need to protect these neighborhoods for us and future generations."
Graziano also focused on protecting the remaining undeveloped land in the 19th Council District.
"We have very little public open space, much less than people think we do. [Fort Totten] was actually my first victory in 1998 when the city wanted to sell this fort to developers," Graziano stated. "The organization that I co-founded, called the Fort Totten Conservancy, actually helped stop the city from doing that and [instead] turned it into a park and historic district...there are about 100 acres of land, both public and private, that need to be protected in this district. We're one of the few districts in the city that actually has unprotected, undeveloped land. So, between Flushing Airport; the six acres that are left in Cresthaven - the former country club - which need to be turned into athletic fields, the remaining property in Udalls Cove which are currently privately owned, which need to be purchased and brought into what is currently within a park zone but is still privately owned - those are things that we need to do."
Graziano also spoke about other issues, including common sense solutions for "superstorm" preparedness, including restoring oyster reefs along the coastline to reduce flooding and storm surges and regularly pruning trees to make them sturdier in the case of high winds. Additionally, he commented on the Real Estate Board of New York's (REBNY's) attempt to destroy landmarking and historic preservation in New York City, noting that Paul Vallone is REBNY's endorsed candidate and that they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his candidacy to date.
finally, as reported in both the Times Ledger and Queens Courier newspapers on Thursday, August 23rd, Graziano was also the only candidate to respond to Paul Vallone's conspicuous absence at the debate.
"Unfortunately, there's been a deafening silence at the far end of the table...there's someone who's missing and for all of his protestations of not being able to make it because of someone passing away, it didn't bother him from campaigning a few hours ago in Bay Terrace. When you have situation where one of the candidates who you're running against chooses not to come here because of his connections with the real estate industry, his truly miserable response four years ago - and I should know, since I was the moderator of the debate here four years ago - when asked whether he was a lobbyist and he refused to respond and respect the audience, I think it's incredibly disrespectful for him not to be here.
"We've had two candidates nights. This is the third one. We have one more next week and we have a debate on New York 1 on Labor Day. For the people in this district to not be able to question this person for, I believe, phony reasons is incredibly disrespectful and, again, you can take his word for it, you can decide how you want to approach it, but that's my rebuttal. One of the people in this race didn't even have the courtesy to show up tonight and while I know people have personal emergencies, why was he campaigning right before this event?"
To view the full debate, click here.