When approached by Councilman Eric Ulrich’s chief of staff to see if he was interested in representing the Republican Party in a south Queens State Seante race, Michael Conigliaro says he initially agreed to run against incumbent Joseph Addabbo, Jr. because, “I don’t think people should run unopposed.”
But he also felt that he could be a community leader and take the initiative on some of the more pressing issues facing citizens of the 15th District, citing the establishment of a homeless shelter in Glendale, rising crime in Howard Beach, Build it Back failures in the wake of Sandy, and the loss of the Rockaway ferry.
Initially, his campaign’s biggest hurdle was establishing name recognition among constituents in the district, he told this paper during a visit last week.
“As we get deeper into the campaign, more and more people are getting to know who I am,” he said. “As each day goes by we get a little more notoriety.”
To deal with the issue of providing services to the homeless, Conigliaro says if elected he will push for New York to become a resident state. That would mean only those homeless individuals who are residents of the state would qualify for homeless services.
He is critical of his opponent’s handling of the current situation surrounding the establishment of a homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue, saying he would’ve engaged DHS immediately when news broke that the shelter was being established.
Conigliaro, who for 10 years served as a volunteer at the Sacred Heart Catholic Homeless Shelter in Glendale until it was defunded, also says he would fight to reestablish Catholic shelters around the city.
“When I worked at Sacred Heart, in 10 years there was never a fight and never an issue,” Conigliaro said. “In Rockaway, a shelter was established and in one week there were nine arrests.”
He believes that by re-establishing small, day-to-day shelters around the city and limiting the number of people who qualify for services, the need for mass shelters could be eliminated.
In the Rockaways, Conigliaro is critical of a lack of action when it became clear there were issues with the Build it Back program following Hurricane Sandy.
“I would’ve sat down with the head of Build it Back on day one,” Conigliaro says.
Conigliaro also said he would engage the Department of Education when it comes to increasing seating capacity in overcrowded district schools.
Conigliaro lives in Rego Park and manages a law office in Floral Park. He is currently the president of the Queens Community College Alumni Association, where he says he has reorganized the cabinet to include more QCC alumni, strengthened communication with educational departments and increased funding for student scholarships.
Though more than 54 percent of the 15th District reported voting Democrat and only 21 percent identified as Republicans in the most recent census, ten-term Republican Serphin Maltese preceded Addabbo as senator, often being reelected to his seat by a comfortable margin. Addabbo, former member of the City Council, was elected in 2008.
Conigliaro believes it is time to return the district to Republican hands, which he says would be more effective at bringing funding back to the district given the current Republican majority in the State Senate.
“After all the things that have occurred recently the area is looking for change, and I’m coming in to let them know that I want to be that change,” Conigliaro says.