The tide is rising in Astoria.
Tony Meloni will announce his plans to run for the open seat in the 22nd City Council District on Sunday.
Anthony Meloni, affectionately known as Tony, is a pillar of the neighborhood and the spirit of community service filters and fibers his being.
Meloni, who lives in Astoria, settled here 45 years ago as an immigrant from Sardinia, an autonomous island off the coast of Italy. Meloni speaks fluent Italian and is presently learning Greek, which is a noble endeavor considering Astoria has the largest Greek Diaspora in the United States.
Despite a few differences, Meloni relents, believing that all cultures can find common ground in their love of the community where they work, play, and raise their children.
A Queens College graduate that majored in Urban Studies with a minor in ethnic studies, Meloni’s academic background gives him wide latitude to bridge the cultural melting pot that is Astoria.
Like many Astoria residents, Meloni is a family man. He has two grown children, a daughter who teaches high school English and his son is an engineer.
In his professional life, since 1988, Meloni has been the executive director of Immigration Advocacy Services, a non-profit office that helps people become citizens and residents through filing documents, complying with immigration procedures and offering free consultations.
Meloni is everywhere. He’s a staple at most, if not all, community meetings from the Kiwanis of Astoria to the Community Board.
“It’s a great way to know what’s going on in the community and being an active participant keeps my ear to the beat of the neighborhood,” Meloni said.
By far, his most influential and visible service to the community is the New York Anti-crime agency, which supervises troubled kids and teenagers that have been arrested. The group instills a spirit of civic and duty by giving children and teens a second chance.
“We have thousands of hours of community service for local kids, and 92 percent do not get re-arrested,” said Meloni, adding, “I’ve gotten to know the young community by advocating a valuable service to our neighbors”.
Meloni is a passionate environmentalist and will make conservation and green initiatives a principal of his campaign. He believes that diesel fumes from school busses and trucks have contributed to the poor air quality in Astoria.
“The City is wrong in purchasing diesel busses and trucks, and firefighters have to sit there and inhale diesel fumes. School children must inhale these fumes. It doesn’t make sense,” said Meloni, who plans to spearhead legislation to retrofit school busses and city vehicles for cleaner air emissions.
“Our air is not the greatest and we want to work with the power plants. People are doing it already but it doesn’t hurt to have everyone on the same page,” he said.
Public safety, small business advocacy, and Veteran’s affairs will also be a part of Meloni’s platform.
“We performed the biggest cleanup ever done in NYC… we cleaned 250 stores in one day in ’92 in Astoria – all main avenues – we even cleaned Hell’s Gate bridge and we’ve been maintaining it ever since.”
The initiative is part of Meloni’s belief in community empowerment.
“If you wait for government it will take a lot longer. The government and the community can work together,” he said.
In terms of political philosophy, Meloni is middle of the road. He doesn’t like extremes especially when he believes common sense should dictate the issues. “It’s about compromise, a middle road that can be followed.”
Meloni also believes in marriage equality. “The government should not be telling people who they can marry,” he said.
Regarding advocacy of small businesses, Meloni spoke with a bit of cynicism, “in between the taxes, water rates, and fines – the government is taking advantage of small business. Restaurants are getting fined – they pass the grade – and they still get a fine. Go to court the situation is untenable. Our small businesses should not be footing the bill. If someone goes to court to fight it it’s a kangaroo court you don’t feel like you have a chance and it doesn’t make anyone feel any better. You go out of your way to fight it, and no matter what you do, it’s daunting for small businesses.”
City Councilmember Peter Vallone is term limited this year and his seat will be up for grabs. However, Vallone feels that Meloni’s campaign should be taken very serious.
“Tony is a longtime friend and he and I have worked closely together for years on public safety issues. He has been involved in the community for decades and will be a formidable candidate,” according to Vallone.
Asked if he felt he could fill the Councilman’s shoes, Meloni replied, “I think I can, I’ve worked with Pete…sure they are big shoes to fill, but someone has got to do it. I might as well try to serve the people and the community. I do it because it’s my community and I can make a bigger change and I can do more to continue to help us,” said Meloni.
Meloni believes in the old addage that brevity is the soul of wit. He is renowned and respected for giving short and poignant speeches. “Astoria is a small town within a large city. I want to keep it that way so that we don’t lose that community feeling. People are coming to our area. They come because it’s a neighborhood.”
It seems if you ask anyone that knows of him or his work, they will tell you Meloni is not about lip service, “He walks the walk,” said Michael Serao, a board member of the Astoria Kiwanis whom volunteers side-by-side with Meloni at the multitude of community service projects performed by the group.
Meloni agrees that serving the constituents is the number one priority. “I felt coming from the community you can do a lot for the community.”
But there are many problems facing Astoria residents.
Asked to predict some of the challenges facing the district in the near future, Meloni responded, “It’s not a white picket fence; it has a lot to offer. We don’t want to lose vital city services and we are overburdened by tax and rate hikes as it is. Schools closures like LIC and Bryant (Meloni is a graduate of Long Island City High School), it’s way off. I think the Mayor is playing with student’s lives and teachers.”
“If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it,” said Meloni, adding, “This political back and forth is not helping anyone.
While the campaign kickoff is a little early in the electoral cycle, so far a consulting firm has not been selected.
Meloni will be running a grassroots campaign on his merits and believes that the early start will show how strong his candidacy really is.
The official announcement will be made Sunday, April 22nd at Riccardo’s By The Bridge in Astoria at 3:30. Everyone is welcome to attend.