Tony Arcabascio just can’t stand it when someone runs for office unopposed. So when he saw that the Queens Republican Party didn’t seem to have anyone planning a race for borough president, he stepped in and launched his campaign.
It’s Arcabascio’s second run for office; last year he took on state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), losing by a 6-1 margin.
He says making the run was more about giving people an alternative than about anything wrong with the incumbent.
“I told the Dutch Kills Civic I’m not here to bash Gianaris,” he recalled during an interview last Friday with the Queens Chronicle. “I’m not better, I’m just different.
“So this year, I was waiting for someone to step up and run for Queens borough president — and I kept waiting, and waiting, and no one showed up.”
So Arcabascio, who will appear on the ballot under his legal name, Aurelio Arcabascio — though he’s been known as Tony his whole life — decided he’d do it again.
But he’s got a bit more fire in the belly this time around because, he said, Democratic nominee Melinda Katz has been bashing him unfairly.
When a pro-Katz mailer claimed that Arcabascio was a no-good Republican running so that the rich would have an ally in Borough Hall, he got mad — for a couple reasons.
One was that although the Queens Republican Party gave him its endorsement, “that’s as far as that went,” he said. Riven by division and plagued by scandal, the party has not lifted a finger to help his campaign, Arcabascio said.
“So you can understand how angry I got when Melinda sent out a letter saying I’m an evil Republican just out for the 1 percent,” he said. After all, of the two candidates in the race, he’s the one who is the son of the working class, his indigent parents immigrating to Queens from Italy when his mother was five months pregnant with him.
Katz, he said, is the one born well off — and the one getting the big donations from corporate interests such as development firms. She’s the one whose family has lived in the same Forest Hills home for three generations, while he’s moved up in the world through hard work. He’s now a technology and crisis management planner working for the North Shore-Long Island Jewish healthcare system.
“My father didn’t found the Queens Symphony Orchestra,” he said to illustrate the difference. Katz’s did. Arcabascio’s father was a union laborer and his mother a union seamstress, who used to thread needles at home to get a jump on the next day’s work.
Italian was his first language; he had to learn English in school.
The GOP hopeful said that because of his background, upbringing and work ethic, he’s the candidate who’ll represent “the real Queens” if elected, not his opponent, an attorney who was formerly a city councilwoman and state assemblywoman.
Arcabascio, 53, is married and has three daughters and one son. His wife works for the city Department of Education, managing school social workers in Queens.
In his Chronicle interview, he said relatively little about specific issues, focusing instead on his background and the state of the campaign — including his assertion that the Democratic Party leaned on Queens Public Television to nix broadcasts of a debate he had with Katz [see separate story on page 2]. But he did say he would focus on issues important to senior citizens, specifically by pressing the city to pull the franchise agreements it has with utilities and entertainment service providers unless they provide senior discounts.
If elected, he said, he would immediately conduct a detailed study of the borough to see where his office should focus its attention and what neighborhoods lack resources others have. He would spend little time in the office, instead walking the borough and meeting with civic groups to assess needs.
Then, within 90 days, he’d set measurable goals and implement plans to meet them. That’s what he’s been doing for 33 years in the private sector, he said, and he does it well.