Tony Nunziato exudes confidence as he gears up for his rematch against Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) in the 30th District on Nov. 6.
“Not enough is being done for our communities in terms of real, recent accomplishments.” the Republican said this week.
Nunziato, who lost to Markey by a healthy margin in 2010, believes the assemblywoman and the district do not have a lot to show for her 14 years of seniority in Albany.
“I have a record of accomplishment,” he said. “I want to make a difference.”
Nunziato, 55, is a Woodside native who has lived in Maspeth for 32 years and run Enchanted Florist there for 28.
He is married with three children.
Markey touts her seniority and her chairmanship of the Assembly’s Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development as points in her favor.
But it is in those areas where the challenger feels she is vulnerable.
He cited as his accomplishments the cleanup of the old Phelps Dodge site in Maspeth when he was chairman of the Environmental Committee on Community Board 5; his decade-long pursuit of what would become the Maspeth Bypass, which has kept heavy truck traffic from the Maurice Avenue corridor away from commercial areas and residential side streets; and his efforts along with others’ to create Grand Avenue Park on the site of the old Elmhurst gas tanks.
“They were going to put a Home Depot there,” he said. “Do you know what she said? ‘There is no way that will ever be a park.’ She likes to say she founded Maspeth Town Hall. I built Maspeth Town Hall on the organizing committee and I’m a past president.”
Markey remembers the park story differently, with the green space born of the efforts of herself, Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and others to lobby KeySpan. She recalled how she and Crowley were late for a meeting with KeySpan officials, stuck in traffic on the BQE.
“When we got there Shelly came out and said, ‘You can have the land for a dollar,’” she recalled. “ ... [Nunziato] wasn’t even in the room.”
Nunziato also mentioned his role in the community’s efforts to preserve and rebuild the old St. Saviour’s Church, which is sitting in trailers as community leaders seek out a suitable site for the reconstruction.
“The list goes on and on,” he said.
If he were to win this time, Nunziato almost certainly would be in a Republican Assembly minority.
“But the Senate will be a Republican majority,” he said. “There is still money allotted that can be brought back to serve the people of the district.”
Nunziato said his biggest priority would be cutting unemployment levels.
“Creating jobs is the most pressing need,” he said. “We’re losing our kids to the economy because there are no jobs for them. Small businesses keep getting hammered by the government, and a lot of those businesses will falter. There are all these empty stores. I want to represent my constituents, not a committee chairman or a party.”
A small businessman himself, Nunziato is wary of efforts to impose an increase in the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“People keep comparing us to Connecticut,” Nunziato said. “Do you know what we’re talking about with Connecticut? One dollar more an hour. Sure, it would be nice, but is $30 or $40 more a week going to make that big a difference?”
He said, on the other hand, that wage increases could force a small business owner to take a good long look before hiring someone, or perhaps to eliminate one or more jobs in order to pay for the difference.
“It depends on if that small business can afford it,” he said. “Do we benefit by cutting two jobs to pay for two increases?”
Nunziato said that left to their own devices, small business owners who are allowed to thrive will hire people by their own accord, and pay the wages necessary to attract and keep good employees.
“Small businessmen know what to do,” he said. “They’ll be able to decide what to do with their money.”