Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

Lawyer John Ciafone would like to bring Astoria its fair share of funding should he be elected the area’s next city councilman.

The father of three is running in a Democratic primary against Costa Constantinides and Gus Prentzas for the western Queens seat, currently held by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who is term-limited out.

“If you look at other districts, they are getting more funding than we are,” he said.

Ciafone said he would like to see earmarks for districts around the city, called discretionary spending, distributed more equitably between lawmakers and not have them subject to what he called the whims of the Council speaker.

The problem, he said, is that programs for children and seniors end up suffering as a result of political struggles in City Hall.

The born-and-raised Astorian suggested the city cut excess costs and spend the money on senior centers, pre-kindergarten and after-school activities for students of all ages and libraries. As an example, he suggested the city Department of Education rein in spending from its School Construction Authority, which is in charge of erecting new schools, and build more wisely.

“There is a tremendous amount of money in the system,” he said.

Ciafone was twice elected to the now-defunct city Board of Education, and served the area from the late 1990s until mayoral control was initiated in 2002.

Reflecting on that time, Ciafone said he supports a voucher program for students who attend private school and, in certain cases, supports charter schools.

He would also fight to give more power to parents and would not kowtow to the United Federation of Teacher, a powerful union Ciafone believes advocates more for their own members than for children, he said.

Ciafone is also a supporter of stop-and-frisk, and said he would have voted against the recent Community Safety Act, which would install an inspector general to oversee the department and also allow New Yorkers additional opportunities to sue the NYPD for alleged instances of racial profiling.

Out of the six subway stops in the district, none of them are handicapped accessible, but Ciafone said he would fight to change that.

The lawyer does not support retroactive pay raises, which is one of the biggest issues facing the next mayor, who must renegotiate contracts with the city’s public workers.

“If we continue in this pattern, the city is going to end up like Detroit,” Ciafone said.

Ciafone is self-funding his race, which he says separates him from those who might want to buy influence.

He supports the planned Hallets Point project, which would bring high-rise housing to the Astoria waterfront, though in general he would like to force more developers to build affordable housing in the area by requiring it in exchange for tax breaks and other incentives.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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