By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Last Tuesday was a busy day.
In addition to my normally hectic schedule, it was 1 p.m. lunch with
Peter Vallone, Jr. then 4 p.m. coffee back at the office with Mark Green.
Mark Green with
Mike Schenkler at the Trib.
If they ever took the politics out of this job, it wouldnt
be half as much fun. I enjoy the business, I love the job, but the politics keep the
It was my first encounter with Peter, Jr. We had talked on the phone
and exchanged emails he often emails comments on my column but had never
met. Pete, who is frequently referred to in Queens political circles as Junior, (Im
not sure what he likes to be called I didnt ask; he didnt suggest) is a
candidate for Council in the 22nd District, a seat held by his father for decades.
Conventional political wisdom is that he is a shoo-in. I agree. Pete,
Jr. was not so sure and certainly wasnt cocky. He intends to work hard to win and
harder to serve.
Why is he running? Because he can do the job his community needs. The
proliferation of power plants in Astoria seems to be the driving issue at the moment. Pete
was more concerned with enlisting my help to fight the pollution caused by power plants in
his district than to seek the Tribs help for his candidacy.
It was a get-acquainted lunch for me, but Pete had two agenda items.
And he handled himself well very well.
He came to the office and met the editorial staff and as I drove to
Caffé On The Green, he began:
Item one: to get more exposure of the unilateral actions on the part of
the New York Power Authority in permitting (or encouraging) more and more generators in
That afternoon, after he returned to the office I received a number of
faxes and emails that supported his point. As soon as we digest them all, well share
our reaction with you. Vallone Jr.s point about moving any new power generators out
of the over-burdened community echoed the sentiment expressed to me in a phone
conversation several days earlier by Claire Shulman. Pete feels the NYPA has been
deceptive and unreasonable in both site location and power need assessment. He seems to
make his case well and has been a champion of the cause for more than a year as the
Council to C.H.O.K.E.
Although we still need additional information on the matter, Pete has
convinced us to continue to question and challenge what is going on with new power
generators in Queens.
But it was Petes other agenda item that surprised us most.
Although he was passionate about his C.H.O.K.E. campaign, he was more passionate when the
talk turned political.
No, the young Vallone (actually the oldest of three sons Peter,
Perry and Paul of Tina and Peter Vallone) was not selling himself for the Council
seat. He was pitching his father for mayor. He was convincing, compassionate and honestly
showed the love and respect he had for his father. There is no doubt that Pete, Jr. came
from a household filled with love and respect where basic values were the focus of raising
kids. The affection and respect of a son for his father that I witnessed is all too rare
in kids today, no matter how old.
"Hes a much nicer person than I am," Pete said of his
father. "I can tell you hed never make backroom deals, he just doesnt do
those things," he related without doubt.
I came away from the lunch with a new take on the powerful, seemingly
autocratic Council Speaker. Although Peter, Sr. has always been portrayed as a good man of
deep religious conviction, to me, he was still the leader of a shoddy Council that he
ruled with an iron fist except on the term limit repeal attempt.
But a sons compassion has made this writer rethink his position.
There are no political conclusions yet. But it seems that Peter Vallone, Sr. is a
remarkable man no judgment yet on his ability to run the city.
It was back to the office, return a few phone calls and a scheduled
chat with mayoral frontrunner, Public Advocate Mark Green. We had about an hour
well likely continue. Ive met Mark a number of times through the years. He
hasnt changed. Hes hard working, driven and bright. He expects and is expected
to be one of the two Democrats to be in a run-off primary for the partys nomination
for mayor. You need 40 percent of the vote to win it without a run-off.
All the polls say hes out front by a lot. "You ask
the Ferrer people [Bronx Beep, Latino candidate trying to form a minority coalition
Fernando] they say its Freddy and me," Green explained. "Ask Hevesis
campaign, its Green and Hevesi. And Vallone says its him and me." The
frontrunner confidently laid it all out: The people have watched me and they like what
"Hevesi," who seems to be the biggest obstacle in
Greens mind, "has had the same opportunity over the last eight years as I have.
Only, he has a staff of hundreds while I have 40," Green explained. "Look at the
Green stands on his record of advocacy for the people. All the
candidates have extensive experience and have been around for a lot more than the last
eight years. The people are clearly showing a preference for Green, insists the
Reacting to a column I wrote several weeks ago about Alan
"Who?" Hevesis lack of visibility, Green agreed and insisted it was fatal
to his campaign. We discussed Hevesis $1 million TV buy: "If he has to spend $1
mil to play catch-up now, he wont have it later," Green analyzed. With current
campaign finance rules, all four candidates will have the same amount to spend. "Alan
will be $1mil down when it counts - how will he be competitive?" Mark asked.
Green isnt green. Hes off to a fine start. Hes got a
credible history of public service and what seems to be a professional campaign. My old
friend Hank Sheinkopf (he got his start at the Trib ask him) is one of
several impressive professionals guiding the public advocate towards Gracie Mansion. His
heart and politics are in the right place.
And above all, Green points out: "Im not beholden to anyone
but the people. I dont expect to get the Queens County endorsement [or Bronx, or
Brooklyn]. Im not a candidate of machine politics. Im an independent Democrat.
I will enter office as a candidate of the people."
It might be early to be so sure. But then again, wed bet, Mark
Green will be one of the two Dems in the run-off. Right now, hes close to even
money. The others are 3.5-1, or worse.
Its not easy being Tribune Editor. Its not the job
creating an accurate, compelling, interesting weekly mirror of the community
that makes it difficult. Its dealing with the thousands of readers who see only the
one item that impacts their lives directly and would like to have it done differently.
Its the occasional mistake or affront to a community member or group that causes
greater grief than the challenge of the job.
Trib Editor Tamara Hartman took one for the paper last week . .
.and it was only right.
Trib PhotoPix editor Dee Richard was being honored by the Latin
American Cultural Center (LACC) and Tamara, tied up with deadlining and editing a hard
news story, asked one of her staff to edit the Leisure page and keep an eye on the item
As she explained to me, that was her mistake. The staffer was sick and
Tamara should have double-checked anything she gave him, she whined in her email to me.
The end result according to the email, was that last weekend, when she
checked to see when she needed to be at the Queens Museum of Art for the LACC ceremony
honoring our TribPixie Dee, she noticed an error. Although she had marked on the release
that admission was free and there was a suggested donation of $4 (she remembered that
because she had to call the Center to get the amount because the release wasnt
clear) it appeared in the Trib that the admission was free and the suggested
donation was $40. Hmmm!
Now she could have skipped the event, but the invite was only for a
reception from 2-2:30 so she figured she could swallow her pride for a half hour and
attend on Dees behalf. After all, Dee provides us with a dynamite weekly page
telling the story of the boroughs political and cultural events.
Tamara arrived, and played shocked when they told her about the typo .
. . but they were so pleased she was there that the faux pas blew over pretty quickly.
Then to her surprise the reception started at 2:30 and went on to 3
p.m. when a whole program . . . including 6 pieces of classical music, the history of the
woman for whom the award was named, and the reading of three of her poems in Spanish
followed before they gave out any awards. Then the other two honorees were presented and
Dee was last.
Meanwhile, while Tamara was fantasizing about a night out bar hopping
on Bell Boulevard, she was caught in a museum utilizing the precious time she had set
aside to complete some work work she now had to do at night (Darn it, she thought
no Bourbon Street, no Yeats Tavern, no men).
Could she discreetly sneak out? No, she figured she owed it to Dee and
to them for the mistake. So she stuck it out and State Senator Toby Stavisky, who was
addressing the group, pointed Tamara out in the audience and talked about her long history
with Dee and her longer history in the journalism biz. Toby started with Tamaras mom
who she knew as a reporter for the Long Island Star-Journal and Press.
Tamara took the opportunity to step up beside Dee and took over the
mike. She still credits her godfather, the late "mayor" of Maspeth, Peter
Chahales and her aunt for her willingness to address groups. She actually is a born ham,
although shed rather sing and play the guitar, give her two people or more and a
Queens topic, the Queens College professor in her she teaches journalism there
comes out and Tamara holds court with or without microphone.
She held court last weekend too at the Queens Museum. So she got the
mike and talked about the crazy world of weekly deadlines where no matter how hard you
try, things still go wrong and difficulties abound. But, she continued on about how
grateful she was, to know that every week Dee is there with the pictures and the captions
and the events that happen in Queens, making sure the Trib covers all the news and
keeps on top of things. She took the opportunity to thank Dee for always being there when
she is needed and for being a constant in an otherwise crazy newspaper world.
Well, my sources tell me, Dee welled up with tears.
And afterwards, Dee thanked Tamara for her words, and the ever-cool
editor added that I sent a kiss indeed, I had so instructed Tamara, but she rarely
carries out such requests.
Of course, Tamara didnt get any of her work done the whole
event took two and a half hours longer than she was expecting.
But, I got a good 800-word story for my column and Tamara had several
fewer brews to work off at the gym.