Friday, May 19, 2017
Dan Guarino, Mike Scala and Lew Simon want to challenge Eric Ulrich for Council Seat
At least three Democrats are hoping to have the opportunity to unseat the borough’s lone Republican lawmaker — Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) in November.
Broad Channel resident Dan Guarino and Howard Beach resident Mike Scala have both announced their intention to run for the seat.
And a familiar face will, most likely, be joining them.
Approached by a Chronicle reporter on Monday, Democratic District Leader and perennial candidate Lew Simon — who unsuccessfully challenged Ulrich in 2009 and 2013, and had sought office before that too — said he will make an announcement on May 22 but to “expect the expected.”
“You can say I came close last time,” he told the reporter.
In 2013, Simon won 47 percent of the vote and Ulrich got 53, the closest Council race that year.
More Democrats may enter the race in the coming days and weeks.
This will be Guarino’s first foray into politics. He’s been involved in a number of community groups over the years, including heading the Rockaway Artists Alliance, and has worked as a reporter on the peninsula. He joined The Wave newspaper and the artist alliance shortly after Superstorm Sandy and worked to rebuild them following the devastating act of God.
Right now, he’s working with a startup newspaper on the north shore of Staten Island.
The longtime Broad Channel resident, who has written two books on the community’s history, touted his ability to work closely with other people.
“I want to take it to the next level,” he said Tuesday.
He declined to comment on Ulrich’s performance.
“What I’m looking at is not so much what the other guy doesn’t have, but what can I bring to the table,” Guarino said.
Should he win the Democratic primary and beat Ulrich, he’d like to work on issues ranging from getting the city to fill potholes to improving transportation throughout the district.
He’d also look to help put new businesses where vacant storefronts exist now and provide merchants with the tools to make it through their first year.
Ultimately, he added, he wants to listen to every community’s unique concerns.
“What is it that they need and what is it that they don’t need?” he asked.
Scala, an attorney and first vice president of the Queens Public Transit Committee advocacy group, touted his work in state government as a legal counsel and legislative director.
“I got the record and the background to do the job effectively,” he said. “I know how to get it done.”
Scala has been considering a run for the Council since last year and said he would do it if Ulrich decided to run against Mayor de Blasio instead of going for another term.
But the attorney was irked at recent comments Ulrich made, reported by the Chronicle, on the Select Bus Service project for Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.
“I’m on your side, but I’m also brutally honest ... It’s coming,” the councilman said at the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association’s April meeting. “The battle is lost.”
Ulrich also said the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line will not happen “in my lifetime or yours” and the right-of-way would instead be transformed into a 3.5-mile stretch of parkland known as the QueensWay.
“That angered a lot of transportation advocates,” Scala said. “I realized this was when I wanted to jump into the race.”
He was also upset Ulrich decided to run for a third term, despite having previously blasted the law that allows him to do so.
Ulrich, who has represented the 32nd Council District since 2009, is eligible for a third term because he entered office before a 2010 referendum limited future city office holders to two terms.
At the time, he opposed an element of the referendum that allowed sitting lawmakers to seek a third term, grandfathering them into a 2008 law that extended term limits from two to three.
Scala said Ulrich’s flip on the measure is “his main gripe” with the lawmaker and that he thinks the councilman has “done a decent job.” Investigating the slow progress made under Build it Back, something Ulrich has called for, would also be a priority of Scala’s.
Republican State Committeewoman and community activist Joann Ariola, who responded for the Ulrich campaign, said, “Councilman Ulrich is running for his last and final term this November. Now more than ever, we need him in the City Council to be a check, not a rubberstamp, on Mayor de Blasio’s radical agenda. The Councilman has earned the trust and support of his constituents because he has delivered real results for the communities he serves. The potential opponents that have been voicing their intent to run do not have the experience necessary to do the job effectively and have a too narrow focus on the issues. Councilman Ulrich is an excellent elected official who fights for every issue in every neighborhood in the district.”