Michael Conigliaro is not dissuaded from running for City Council despite the fact that only three of the 51 members are Republicans, including two on Staten Island.
“A lot of people have been telling me they’re at the point where they’re going to vote person over party,” the Rego Park resident and law office manager told the Chronicle last Thursday as he discussed his views.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) will be term-limited out of office at the end of the year and 13 candidates are running to replace her. Conigiliaro is the only Republican.
“Many people that I’m meeting are just anxious for new leadership, for someone to come in and take the reins and just do what needs to be done,” he said. “And they’re tired of the one-party system.”
Conigliaro, who has worked on cleaning graffiti in the area, wants to help preserve buildings like Tower Diner and OHR Synagogue, which are planned to be demolished by developers “looking to tear down sites that have historical value.”
He said that because of the pandemic he wants to work on a bill allowing for moratoriums on actions against landlords who are late on real estate taxes, water bills and mortgage payments. It would complement the breaks renters have gotten during the crisis.
“If a tenant can’t afford to pay then at least the landlord wouldn’t have to evict them and everybody could ride out the storm without one side being affected in a more negative way than the other,” Conigliaro said.
When it comes to education, Conigliaro wants to preserve the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test and Gifted & Talented program.
He is against the proposed District 28 diversity plan that could see some middle school students in Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens swapped with some in Jamaica and South Ozone Park.
“The diversity plan sounds good on paper for the people who are drawing it up,” Conigliaro said, but he wonders how difficult it would be for students in afterschool programs and working on projects at a classmate’s house when they don’t live nearby.
“How do they participate in things of that nature?” he said.
Conigliaro also wondered about the students traveling.
“Will they get to school on time? Will they get home on time? There’s just a lot of different issues that I think would be more negative to the student,” he said.
The Council hopeful is also against defunding the NYPD.
“I think the police need a lot of support from a City Council representative ... I feel that they don’t have a voice in the district and I want them to know they would have one with me in the City Council,” he said.
Conigliaro is also against the city’s plan to tear down Rikers Island in favor of four borough-based jails, including one in Kew Gardens. He said he wants more transparency and town halls as opposed to finding out an elected official decided something was a good idea. The plan was the subject of a series of public meetings and hearings.
He also criticized the Queens Boulevard bike lanes.
“I don’t believe that they’re all used as much as I think they thought they would have been when they implemented them,” Conigliaro said.
He said parking is “already tough” in the area.
“I’m not saying eliminate them,” Conigliaro said. “I’m saying let’s re-evaluate and see if we can reduce some of the length.”
Conigliaro lost elections to state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) in 2014 and again in 2016. But he said he learned from those races and has started his campaign much earlier than he did on those occasions.
Hoping his third time will be the charm, he said he considers the district to be moderate as opposed to far left.
Party politics will not be an issue if he is elected, according to Conigliaro.
“I will work with people on both ends of the aisle,” he said.