The candidate invited local civic leaders to speak first, all of whom personally endorsed Paul in his quest for the 19th Council seat.
Local civic leader Mel Siegel said, “We’re here to support Paul in his race for the City Council. Nobody has done more to help preserve and protect this neighborhood than Paul and we’re delighted that he’s running and he has our full support.”
“One of the reasons why we support Paul is because what is most important to him is preserving our neighborhoods and making sure that builders don’t go ruining good houses and destroying the property around here,” said Peter Brancazio, President of the Northeast Flushing Civic Association. “He’s a community activist and that’s what we need in this position.”
Joe Amoroso, Zoning Chair of the Kissena Park Civic Association said, “I’m happy for the people that live in his district, but I’m not in his district and that makes me unhappy. He’s not just out for his own community; he’s trying to help everybody in all the communities in Queens. And as a City Council member, he’d be able to do that not just for here, but for everyone.”
Henry Euler, 1st Vice-President of the Auburndale Improvement Association stated, “I am endorsing Paul Graziano for the City Council in the Democratic Party. I know most of the other candidates running and it’s very clear to me that Paul is the one that has done the most for our community.“
Jim Colasante, President of the Bayside Gables Homeowners Association said, “I can say wholeheartedly that we’ve worked hand-in-hand with Paul on the front lines in court as well as within the community. He’s done a lot to help preserve what we have in our community. I, myself, and a lot of our homeowners definitely will support Paul come the Fall.”
Bob Nobile, representing the Little Neck Pines Civic Association said, “Paul has been very instrumental in getting us rezoned along with Douglaston. He is very hands-on. He would be perfect to be a City Councilman. He’s not part of the political machine. Paul is an activist. He’s one of us and that’s what we want. We want someone to represent us and not their personal agenda.”
Members of Korean-Americans for Political Advancement (KAPA), the Bayside Hills Civic Association, the Bayside Historical Society and the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society as well as other residents of the 19th Council District were also in attendance to support Paul’s candidacy. Civic leaders Warren Schreiber (Bay Terrace Community Alliance), Sunny Hahn (a well-known Flushing activist) and several others from across the 19th Council District could not be at the kickoff due to conflicting schedules but wanted to make it a matter of public record that they had planned to be in attendance.
Paul Graziano then addressed the crowd. “My campaign is very simple: Protect your neighborhood. Do no harm. And what that means very simply, and I’ve mentioned that to a number of people…it’s hard for me to think about theoretical and esoteric problems when we’ve got problems at hand in the community,” he said.
On overdevelopment, Paul stated, “Right now there’s a big fight in Douglaston going on. We had a press conference there last week, where a 150-year old farmhouse is threatened with demolition or severe alteration because an area that should have been landmarked almost 20 years ago with the rest of Douglas Manor, has not been landmarked. These sound like almost trivial discussions to some people, but this is the bones. This is what it’s all about. It’s about protecting your neighborhood...[In this area] we’ve, along with the [Broadway-Flushing] Homeowners Association, put the neighborhood on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, 1330 buildings. We rezoned this area with the strictest zoning in New York City – the R1-2A and R2A zonings, which I helped to co-author several years ago - and it’s still not enough. It’s still not enough.”
On education, Paul said the following: “Parents are pulling their kids out of certain schools – some of the best schools in the borough and the city – because they are very unhappy with the direction that the Department of Education has gone. I think that the Department of Education should essentially be abolished. I was not a huge fan of the Board of Education, but at least the Board of Education gave local communities and local areas more of a say in what they needed to happen instead of a top-down decision-making process that has not benefitted anybody.”
The speech then turned to parkland. “Twenty percent of this city – 1/5 of this city – is parkland, and yet we see our parkland being abused. Abused, compromised, sold out. There’s a model being presented that’s trying to corporatize our parks. Does anybody here actually know how much the city spends on parks of the budget? It’s 1/3 of 1% of the budget for the entire City of New York, which is deplorable. It is a lack of responsibility and accountability from those people who run this government.“
Then he mentioned, “We have 100 acres of undeveloped land in the 19th Council District: Flushing Airport, the remaining parcels in Udall’s Cove which are still privately owned and can still be developed.”
In closing, Paul said, “Everything is local, but everything is also citywide. It’s also really important to make sure that we have an agenda that focuses on the needs of this community as well as, really, things that are crossing the entire city in importance. When we’re in a situation where I think every neighborhood feels embattled by the kinds of things that are happening, we have to stand up and do something about it.”
For a copy of the full press conference and transcript, go to http://www.paulgraziano.com/latest-news.html.