The King of Queens

Will the Peter Principle Snag Peter Vallone?

"Those laws have been abysmal in terms of destruction of neighborhoods, especially the vacancy decontrol" says Kenny Schaeffer of the Metropolitan Council on Housing. "It just gave landlords a bigger profit and drives the middle class out."

Vallone spokesman Mattis Goldman says the luxury decontrol law followed news stories about celebrities, including Mia Farrow and Carly Simon, whose rent was well below their means and the market rate. "There was a real fear that these cases would ruin rent regulation for everyone, so the council acted to take steps to end most egregious cases." Vallone himself invokes rent issues "as an example of the kinds of things I'm criticized for, but if you're in government, you must work towards a consensus to preserve the best, and you must make compromises that are not unconscionable. That's the principle of how I try to govern."

Vallone has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund plan that would use revenue from the sale of the World Trade Center—a scheme that his opponents mimic. But Vallone's use of affordable housing as a campaign plank can't disguise his role in eroding the existing affordable stock.

Vallone is banking on support from middle-class voters concerned about expensive housing and inferior schools. He's made a play to poorer parents with a plan to cover health care premiums for children. And he is counting on support from an old reliable core, seniors. Central also are Giuliani Democrats—white, outer-borough voters who liked the mayor's crime policies and conservatism. While Vallone says he wants to continue many of Giuliani's "gains," he's quick to say, "I really do think, contrary to this administration, that if money is your problem, you save money if we treat people with compassion."

Can Vallone win? He harks back to his 1998 gubernatorial run against incumbent George Pataki. That race, too, turned this ultimate insider into an outcast in upstate counties, where the city and its politicians are loathed.

"What people don't know is that in spite of the fact that Pataki spent 40 million bucks and I spent 7 million, I still carried the city better than 2-1 against this guy. . . . I think that's a fairly good analysis of why I believe I'm going to win this Democratic primary. Unfortunately, after that I won't be facing Governor Pataki and $40 million in the state of New York," he chuckles. "I'll be facing Mike Bloomberg and $100 million in the city of New York."

Research assistance: Taron Flood

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