Ask William Kregler if he is running for Queens borough president this November, and he’ll tell you he’s “not running, but actually walking straight into office.”
Confidence beamed from the Republican candidate when he declared he would be a voice for the working-class population in the borough.
In a wide-ranging interview last week, the Woodside resident explained that his “battle” isn’t necessarily with Melinda Katz, but rather the conditions in Queens that have changed over recent years and need addressed..
Kregler, a former public housing officer in Brooklyn, said that experience taught him that in order to gain respect from the community, you need to give respect.
“One thing that I learned as a housing officer is that it was true community policing,” Kregler said. “You have to be the guy that’s going to be there every single day, the lone ranger out there, so if you want to be professional and respected, you couldn’t be ‘badge happy.’”
Kregler also served as a firefighter and fire marshal, and is currently the president of the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association.
Stemming from his professional life, Kregler said he is focused on taking on a watchdog role as borough president.
“If I see that there’s something good for the community, I will be the messenger boy, but if something is adversely affecting the community, I’m going to put the monkey wrench in it,” he said. “That’s what I’m good at. It’s what a borough president should do.”
Kregler is passionate about a number of issues, including bike lanes, community board representation and homelessness in the borough.
He argued that the addition of bike lanes along Queens Boulevard, from Woodside to Rego Park, has negatively impacted traffic, causing congestion for vehicles traveling on the major thoroughfare.
Kregler added that that business community has also been affected because customers no longer have space to park.
“I’m not against bike lanes, but you can’t take away car lanes to accommodate bike lanes,” he said. “Queens Boulevard is wide enough to accommodate both bicycles and vehicles without impeding on either.”
To do this, he suggested getting rid of trees on the medians. For those who may push back on the idea of losing green space, he argued that with substantial “warehouse-like” development on both sides of Queens Boulevard, it has already lost its reputation as a community roadway.
“Everything is being knocked down, we don’t have the mom-and-pop stores,” he said. “Everything is going to be a warehouse. You’re going to live in a warehouse, go to the movies in a warehouse, go eat in the warehouse. It’s terrible.”
As borough president, Kregler would aim to give more respect to community boards, whose members are appointed by the borough president
“I want to put people who represent their neighbors, not Bill Kregler,” he said. “The community boards are going to live with any decision they make, but once they make a decision, you have to honor it.
“It’s a volunteer position, the community boards are not getting paid for their work, so give them a little respect,” he added.
To tackle homelessness in Queens, Kregler wants the city to stop using hotels as shelters. He pointed to several hotels along Queens Boulevard, including a Holiday Inn Express that is being built near FDNY Engine 292 on 68th Street, which could potentially become homeless shelter sites.
And though the mayor has stated that the homeless will stop being housed in hotels by 2023, Kregler doesn’t believe the administration’s promise.
“The mayor says he’s getting out of the business, but to hell he is,” Kregler said. “They’re building hotels for that purpose on Queens Boulevard.”
Instead of using money for emergency hotel rooms and bureaucracy, Kregler suggested more programs that catered to the needs of the homeless population, such as mental health services.
As a native of Springfield Gardens, Kregler has seen firsthand the neglect of southeast Queens. To provide high-quality jobs, he suggested tech companies looking for “social urban enhancements,” such as Amazon, come to the area and utilize the available land.
“Nothing has changed in southeast Queens, it’s a world that time has forgotten,” Kregler said. “You want to find hidden figures of talented, hardworking people, just give them the opportunity.
“If I could do one thing, whether my candidacy is successful or not, I would want to bring attention to southeast Queens,” he added.
He is proud to represent the Republican and Conservatives parties, calling them “good, core-valued people.” But Kregler doesn’t want his political affiliation to hinder non-Republicans voting for him.
“Don’t try to put me with Midwestern Republicans, I’m a New York City Republican,” said Kregler. “We don’t have to like each other, but we can work together and respect one another.”