Anthony Como, raised in Ridgewood and residing in Middle Village, is a son of the 15th Senatorial District, a broad swath of Queens he’s hoping to get the opportunity to represent come January. Como, a conservative Republican, faces fellow 15th native, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), in November, and as he sat down Monday afternoon with the Chronicle, he said he’s getting a sense that constituents are searching for a change in leadership.
“It’s just more of a ‘fed up’ [feeling],” Como said. “It’s a lack of a fight, someone there fighting for them; and they’re just sick and tired of the taxes.”
The one-time 30th District city councilman said that when he shows residents the list of taxes and fees in the Fiscal Year 2010-2011 budget approved by the state Legislature, including the discontinuation of the STAR Program which provided a partial property tax exemption from school taxes to homeowners, they’re “absolutely astounded.”
“I think that’s the message people have not heard,” asserted Como, former president of the city Board of Elections. “Is that person fighting for them, on their side?”
Reached Wednesday afternoon, Addabbo defended his vote.
“We had to consolidate government and save essential services — police, fire, education,” he said. “We made tough decisions in tough fiscal times on things that can be restored. We will reduce property taxes and restore the STAR exemption. We can’t spend recklessly; those days are over. We had to change the course and we did.”
Como, a practicing attorney and former prosecutor with the Queens District Attorney’s Office, also called into question Addabbo’s advocacy of the communities of south Queens during the vetting process for prospective bidders to operate a video lottery facility at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park. The 30-year contract eventually was awarded to Genting New York, LLC.
Como said that he has come across a sentiment of uneasiness in the area over the racino deal and the possible effect it may have on the immediate economy and quality of life.
“What people are upset about, and one of the reasons that the support [for me] has been overwhelming, is that Joe never said a word,” he said.
Como indicated that had he been senator during the process he would’ve held more community meetings with Genting representatives and demanded more transparency regarding the company’s proposal and more assurances for the area around Aqueduct.
“There’s no guarantees, there’s nothing in writing,” Como said.
“Anthony should not go there,” Addabbo responded, before mentioning that the Aqueduct project began nine years ago, when Addabbo’s predecessor, Republican Serf Maltese, was in office and Como was on his staff. “It was not a proud moment for those in office at that time.”
Addabbo said he was “very consistent” throughout the process, and related that he called on his Senate leadership to give their approval to the deal, saying ‘This has to get done. I need these jobs.’
“This is a working relationship that certainly is a work in progress,” said Addabbo, an Ozone Park native and resident. “The community will definitely benefit from this.”
Como noted that the state of small businesses and jobs are two of the most important issues in the district. Taxes and fees are driving proprietors out of Queens, he said, and discouraging new ones from opening up shops or branches in the borough.
“We need to foster and support these businesses — they’re the backbone of our community and what keeps the avenues up and running,” said Como, whose parents ran a deli in Ridgewood for 14 years. “I don’t know how you can just keep on overburdening the middle class.”
An Ed Koch “Hero of Reform,” Como supports requiring all member items to be made public, term limits — either three three-year, or four three-year terms for senators — and said state lawmakers should be full-time public servants. He said he’d also pull the pensions of any legislators who plead or are found guilty of a crime during their time in office.
And while he would not indicate how he’d vote on gay marriage, his thoughts offer a glimpse.
“To call it marriage per se, I don’t agree with,” Como said. “But that doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to the same rights that my wife and I share.”
The general election is Nov. 2. Voters will have the opportunity in less than three weeks to decide which product of the 15th, Como or Addabbo, will represent them for the next two years.