The former 30th District Council member is running for his old seat, currently held by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
Ognibene, a Republican, held the seat from 1992 to 2001. He also ran for the position, and lost, in 2008, when he was beaten by Anthony Como in a special election. Como later lost to Crowley, a Democrat, in the regular election later that year.
Ognibene told this paper he decided to run again in order to restore conservative leadership to the traditionally conservative district, which covers Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and Richmond Hill.
“We’ve had a successful run in this community serving it with good, conservative Republican leadership,” said Ognibene, a semi-retired attorney and resident of Middle Village. “I think the community still appreciates that.”
He said the district has been poorly served by Crowley. “There doesn’t seem to be a guiding hand,” Ognibene said.
“I don’t know what [Crowley’s] done,” he said, though he stressed that he respects the council member personally. “Her whole service is illusory.”
Ognibene criticized Crowley for failing to secure a local zoning provision for the controversial new Maspeth high school, to ensure students from School District 24 receive enrollment priority.
He contrasted this with the work he did to improve education, parks, and other services in the district as council member in the 1990’s. Ognibene said he expanded education resources, funding several computer labs, while reducing school overcrowding across the district.
As accomplishments, he also cited his work in improving parks like Victory Field, Forest Park, and Dry Harbor Playground, and reducing traffic congestion and crime in the district. Under Ognibene’s tenure the police presence in District 30 was increased, resulting in faster response times.
“I think I changed the face of government [for district residents]” Ognibene said. “We brought government back to the community in a positive way and I think my record reflects that.”
If elected to a third term, Ognibene said he would look to continue the work he started nearly 20 years ago. He said priorities would include improving public transportation, making it more effective and accessible to district residents, and reducing taxes.
Ognibene believes communities should have a greater input in the education system, but said he supports mayoral control and would do so as an elected official.
He predicted a close race against Crowley this fall, and promised to begin campaigning in earnest next month, when residents begin paying serious attention to the fall elections.
“I don’t go into things to lose,” he said. “But ultimately it’s the people’s decision [whom to elect] and I respect that.”