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Meet Peter Vallone, New York City Council’s First Speaker

Peter Vallone Sr. is an American Democratic politician known for his work as a councilman in New York City. With a career spanning more than 30 years, he was the city council’s first ever Speaker, and famously helped abolish the unconstitutional Board of Estimate.

His impressive work across all levels of government has earned him a reputation for being a politician who makes things happen – for instance, helping New York City boast the lowest crime rates in decades thanks to his ‘Safe Streets — Safe City’ campaign.

This article covers the life and achievements of the impressive politician, who has also worked as a lecturer and author.

Peter Vallone’s early life

Peter Vallone was born in New York City on December 13th, 1934. He was born into a politically active family, with his father Charles a Judge of Queens County Civil Court, and his mother Leah a Committeewoman of the Democratic State and a teacher.

Peter grew up in a middle-class area in Astoria. His childhood was often spent attending political dinners with his parents and helping them organise parades and other civic events. His mother’s influence led him to go to Mass each morning, which he continues to do to this day.

His father encouraged him to interact with different ethnic and religious groups during the pre-Vatican II era, a time where such dialogue was frowned upon. This likely contributed to him becoming an open-minded and progressive young man.

After finishing school, Vallone completed a BSS and a LLB at Fordham University and Fordham Law School, graduating in 1959. He was awarded with the George W. Bacon Award for Excellence. He initially wanted to work in the Air Force but was declined. He married Tena, a teacher, when he was 23 years old.  Together they had three children – Peter Jr., Perry, and Paul.

His career

Vallone’s loyalty to the city he was born in continued throughout his life; to this day he still lives in and serves New York City. Some of the highlights of his career are:

  • In 1974 he began serving as a council member in Queens for Districts 20 & 22, where he acted in this role for many years.
  • He was nominated as majority leader and the city council’s first-ever Speaker in 1986, a role that he took on until 2001.
  • He drafted an update to the City Charter which helped the Council stay on budget in 1989.
  • He was the Democratic nominee for the role of Governor in 1998, as well as a candidate for the role of Mayor in 2001.
  • He was the top legislator in New York City and made the City Council equal partners with the government.
  • He eliminated the Board of Estimate, the government body once responsible for municipal policy & decision making which was deemed unconstitutional in 1989. New York City’s budget, zoning and land use policies then went under purview through the City Council.
  • His campaign, ‘Safe Streets — Safe City’ saw the city’s police force grow from 26,000 officers to 41,000, resulting in the city’s lowest crime rates in decades.
  • He was a lecturer at the Baruch School of Public Affairs.
  • He wrote and published two books: “Learning to Govern: My Life in New York Politics, From Hell Gate to City Hall” and “God Came Home with Me.”
  • Once against gay rights, he became a supporter in the late 1990s, where he sponsored legislation allowing domestic partners to be legally equal to married couples.

Current life

Now 85 years old, Peter Vallone has since retired from politics, but he continues to teach political science over at Baruch College. He also works in law alongside his son, Peter Jr., running a lobbying firm named Constantinople and Vallone along with a partner. His son Peter Jr. succeeded him at City Council in 2002.

Recent events

Vallone recently celebrated his 85th birthday and was surprised with a party fête hosted by family, friends and council members at City Hall. He had previously been honoured for his public service on his 80th birthday by having his portrait hung in the Members Lounge.

His son Paul was in the news back in 2014 for his plan along with Dan Garodnick to introduce legislation which would ban drones from being used in New York City.

Constantinople and Vallone Consulting

Peter Vallone’s firm Constantinople & Vallone Consulting is a boutique firm with a focus on public affairs, government relations and business development. They provide personalised, hands-on consulting tailored to their select group of client’s needs and budget.

They combine the talents of their varied staff with backgrounds in finance, government, public affairs and law. They are passionate about creating an open dialogue between community leaders, government officials, business executives, policy makers and the media. Their large network allows them to connect their clients with world-class market leaders, government officials and media contacts, providing them with outstanding business opportunities. They ensure to prepare their clients for these opportunities so they can make the most of them.

Their current partners are Peter Vallone Sr., Anthony Constantinople, Perry Vallone, and Tony Constantinople. They have a team of eight staff, each specialising in a different area. Some of their clientele include Slate Properties, Bureau Veritas, The International Academy of Hope, Ferrari Driving School and T-Mobile USA Inc.

Peter Vallone’s sons

Peter Vallone’s three sons lead active careers in politics and law – a testament to his positive influence and fathering skills.

Peter Jr.

Vallone’s firstborn son, Peter Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 1986. He succeeded his father in City Council in 2002, serving the 22nd District of Astoria and Queens until 2013. Peter Jr. ran for borough president of Queens in 2013 and came in second to Melinda Katz.

Some of his noteworthy career moments include:

  • Serving as Assistant to the Manhattan District Attorney and creating a number of anti-graffiti bills.
  • Opposing the growth of the power plant industry and representing an environmental group in court, which led to the closing of a power plant in 2010.
  • Being named as one of the Top Ten Animal Defenders in America in 2014, thanks to his work supporting animals.
  • Being nominated and sworn in as Civil Court judge for Queens in 2016 – this is the role his grandfather served in.
  • Being honoured by a number of groups including the League of Humane Voters, and the Immaculate Conception Youth Program.

Peter Jr. is also known for his multitude of hobbies; he plays four instruments, is a ping-pong champion, football and softball player.

Paul

Paul is a Democratic member of New York City Council, where he serves in the 19th District. He is also an attorney, having worked with Vallone & Vallone, LLP and the New York and New Jersey Bar Associations. He initially ran for the council position in 2009 but came in third – he made it four years later. He lives with his with Anna-Marie and three children in New York. Like his father, he also attended Fordham University.

Perry

Also based in New York, Perry is a licenced attorney working in land use and real estate. After graduating Suma Cum Laude at Monmouth University and St. John’s University Law School, he began working in real estate in one of New Jersey’s finest law firms, Greenbaum, Rowe and Smith. He then worked for the top rated homebuilders in New Jersey, K. Hovnanian Homes, where he served in a range of roles including project manager and area counsel.

He joined his father at Constantinople and Vallone in 2008, where he serves as Senior Vice President. He has achieved numerous successes, including heading a number of economic initiatives at a local and federal level, as well as supporting non-profit clients by securing and protecting their appropriation funding. He is well known for his honest and hard-working approach to life and work; he has built strong relationships with community groups, business partners and government officials alike. He has been married to Mary for nearly three decades and together they have three children.

Conclusion

Peter Vallone Sr. is a living legacy who has done his city, country and family proud. Not only was he the first Speaker in New York City, but his work in law, education and writing is second to none. Having founded Constantinople & Vallone Consulting with his partner has also seen him provide a number of opportunities to hundreds of American businesses.

He should also be commended for successfully raising three sons who have followed in his footsteps as well-educated and successful men in their own right. Peter Jr., Paul and Perry are all esteemed in their field – whether it’s law or politics.

It is clear that the Vallone family is a force to be reckoned with in the Astoria and Queens regions. The neighbourhoods are populated by businesses operated by Peter’s relatives – barbershops and beauty parlours alike. What do they have in common? Their sense of decency, respect and compassion for their fellow people.

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