2022 Election Profile: Michael Conigliaro runs for AD28

‘I’ve touched every part of the district’

By Jessica Meditz


Michael Conigliaro challenges Andrew Hevesi in Assembly District 28.

Republican challenger Michael Conigliaro hopes to win big next week against incumbent Andrew Hevesi in the race for Assembly District 28.

The district encompasses parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Middle Village, Glendale, Maspeth and Kew Gardens, the latter of which was recently gained due to redistricting.

The boundaries of Assembly District 28. Photo: Redistricting and You: New York, Graduate Center of Cuny.

If elected, Conigliaro, 53, strives to focus on the issues of crime, small businesses and education within the district.

Reflecting on the fears he’s heard from residents about crime, he feels that the bail reform legislation passed in 2019 should be repealed in its entirety.

While he understands that he cannot get that done alone up in Albany, he would use a person-to-person approach to work with fellow Assemblymembers.

“I’d like to meet all of my fellow representatives in the state legislature and say, ‘Look, let’s take our political hats off as human beings. Look in your district,’” he said. “‘Can you tell me the people in your district right now don’t have the fear that the people in my district have?’”

Conigliaro is a proponent of using the funds allocated for community-based jails, such as the one being constructed in Kew Gardens, to improve Rikers Island instead.

He would take a tour of Rikers to see firsthand the problems it has, utilize his ability to get state money and work with City Councilmembers to advocate against jails in neighborhoods and for keeping Rikers open.

“Nobody wants a jail in the neighborhood. Nobody wants a homeless shelter. But these things have to be discussed, and there’s ways to figure them out,” he said.

“I believe that Rikers can be fixed, because it’s waterfront property. There’s other reasons why they want to take that place, close it and then put local jails. But I believe, when you look at the situation is in our neighborhoods…You’re really taking those neighborhoods now and you’re also hurting the fact that people are gonna say, ‘It’s open, I’m leaving,’ property values will drop, businesses will close and the domino effect is only bad rather than looking at the options.”

He shares the same sentiment for homeless shelters in the community, namely the men’s shelter located on Cooper Ave. in Glendale. As a civic leader, he has experience volunteering at faith-based homeless shelters, and supports them as a solution to homelessness.

Citing the 238 percent increase in 9-11 calls within Glendale as a result of the shelter, Conigliaro suggested that it poses a threat to the five schools within the immediate area.

Given his experience as President of the Community Education Council – District 24 school board, ensuring that children get the education they need is of utmost importance to him.

The matter includes protecting students by prioritizing school safety and rewarding students for good merit rather than on a lottery basis.

“I had parents calling myself and Superintendent [Madelene] Chan saying that their child is a straight A student, but didn’t get into any high schools because of this tiered lottery system rather than merit-based,” he explained.

“What you’re seeing is that a lot of children’s self-esteem are being affected by the fact that they’re saying, ‘I work hard, I want to get into a good school and I didn’t,’” he continued. “If you start creating a lottery rather than merit-based, you’re going to have children who are there via politics rather than merit, and the ramifications of that are really hurting the children because if they don’t make it at that school, you’re now creating another self esteem issue.”

Regarding small businesses, Conigliaro said that as a result of crime, inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses have seen a decline.

In an effort to rectify this, he would like to find a way to give small businesses an incentive to come into the area by offering a small moratorium on the sales tax.

As for where he feels state money should be allocated in the district, areas such as infrastructure and assisting small businesses and homeowners come to mind, but he would ultimately like to conduct a study to figure where funds are most needed.

If given the choice of which committee in Albany to serve on, Conigliaro said he would choose Veteran Affairs.

“We have migrants coming in right now because New York is a sanctuary city, but we have veterans who served in all wars and many of them are out there with PTSD. They’re homeless, they’re jobless and they need our help,” he said.

He would look to work with Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council to provide homes to veterans in need.

Utilizing funds from the city’s Homeless Services Budget, his goal would be to set up facilities for them in buildings that have been foreclosed.

“When you see a homeless veteran out there, and they should all be thanked for their service, I just feel like [they] fought for [their] country, and now [they’re] home. If you need us to work with you and give you assistance for something, and some of them may not even be able to ask for it…I want to be a voice for them, and I want to utilize my skills to work to improve their quality of life.”

Conigliaro said that if elected, he would work in unison with colleagues, regardless of party affiliation, focusing solely on issues that impact the people they serve — whether it be education, crime, tax issues, the environment or quality of life.

He feels similarly in regard to constituents who may not agree with him on every issue, such as abortion — being he’s pro-life.

“That issue and my opinion on it, quite frankly, should not stop someone from supporting me because of what I want to do about crime…about education…about property taxes…about our veterans and homelessness,” he said. “We can agree to disagree, but let’s work on the other things we can agree on, because you’re never going to agree on everything.”

He also understands the value of an elected official who’s transparent and accessible to constituents, which he said he will follow through on.

Since he’ll be new to the State Assembly, he feels that up in Albany, he can serve as a unifier — bringing a new perspective.

For this reason, Conigliaro feels that seats in the Assembly should be term-limited to two four-year terms, just like presidential term limits.

Furthermore, he is no stranger to running for election, having gone up against incumbent Joseph Addabbo for State Senate twice, and Lynn Schulman for Council District 29.

He is aware of the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district between eight and 10 to one. However, he continues to be approached by residents who say they didn’t vote for him in the last election, but will vote for him this time around.

“People are telling me that they now see what I’ve done on CEC 24, what I’ve done as a civic leader in general. I was the president of the Queensborough Community College Alumni Association, I’m with the Knights of Columbus…I do things for people in the community on a daily basis without being elected, and people see that,” he said.

“I don’t cry over spilt milk, but I think that the experience from those races has led me now for enough people to say, ‘I think it’s time to give Mike a shot.’”

Conigliaro’s first two years of life were spent in Ridgewood, he grew up in Kew Gardens, lives in Rego Park, has close friends in Glendale and went to high school in Richmond Hill.

He has two young daughters, aged 14 and seven, whom he raised while attending Concord Law School online, studying while they slept, and even in bathrooms during family trips.

“I’ve touched every part of the district,” he said. “We really have a beautiful district; we have parks, we have different civic associations…District 24 and 28 are really great school districts with good school superintendents,” he continued.

“People love living in any one of these neighborhoods in the district, and I think I can lead it well.”

2022 Election Profile: Andrew Hevesi runs for re-election in District 28

By Alicia Venter


Hevesi runs for re-election in District 28.

After 17 years in the New York State Assembly, Andrew Hevesi is vying to score his ninth victory in District 28.

His district, which he has held since 2005, encompasses parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Middle Village, Glendale, Maspeth and Kew Gardens, the latter of which he recently gained due to redistricting.

The boundaries of Assembly District 28. Photo: Redistricting and You: New York, Graduate Center of Cuny.

Hevesi, 48, sits as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families.

In this role, Hevesi strives to target adolescent trauma through implementing support systems for both children and parents. 

“What I’ve been working on primarily, and we had great success last year, was in using as much state funding into any program that’s going to prevent or mitigate psychological trauma from adverse childhood experiences,” Hevesi said. “Everything you are seeing in the papers — from crime to rising homeless, to kids dropping out of high school, to higher rates of suicide, and all kinds of things — I think it’s all a function of unprecedented and unmitigated adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.”  

Hevesi and his office worked last year to coordinate a coalition of approximately 100 assembly members and 40 senators to attack this issue as effectively as possible.

“The rest was that in the budget this year was the largest single investment in children in New York State history,” Hevesi said.

This agreement was a $7 billion investment over four years that will raise the salary level of the childcare workforce, which Hevesi noted is primarily Black and Brown women, and to increase the number of childcare seats available throughout the city. 

From this investment, 400,000 new seats were made available for children up to the age of 13.

“Childcare is one of the best ways to prevent childhood trauma from when kids are home alone,” Hevesi said. “It’s socialization. It’s the protective factors that you need to offset this kind of trauma.”

Furthermore, $10 million was invested into YouthBuild, a program originally founded in the 1980s.

The program’s direction has shifted to directly target children who are 16 or 17 years old who are at risk of “picking up guns or becoming a part of gangs,” and instead encourages them to find a career.

“There are a variety of other wins for kids just by money in the budget,” Hevesi said.

To best serve his community while balancing his responsibilities in Albany, Hevesi delegates funding to organizations within his neighborhoods that serve “the most vulnerable people” — those facing food insecurity and who need services to serve their basic needs. 

Hevesi has recently been given approximately $1 million in capital appropriation, which he breaks into smaller pots for distribution. 

“I believe a good member of the assembly, or a good senator, should have an issue that they are expert on,” Hevesi said.

That issue was homelessness for years, as Hevesi was part of numerous efforts to reach an agreement in Albany and with then-Governor Andrew Cuomo on a rent supplement plan to prevent those who are struggling to pay for housing from being forced into shelters. After the plan failed for five years (“Try working on something for five years and then have to give it up!”), Hevesi was appointed the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families. 

If re-elected, Hevesi exclusively told the Queens Ledger that he spoke to leadership, and informed them that he would like to chair the Health Committee in the upcoming term.

Hevesi is a Forest Hills native. Born and raised in the neighborhood, he now lives with his wife, daughter and dog, Lola. 

“I’m a Forest Hills guy completely,” Hevesi added. 

Forest Hills is set to become the home to QueensWay, a linear park along 3.5 miles of abandoned tracks that run through Central and Southern Queens. The plan has been met with controversy, particularly from those who supported QueensLink, a plan to turn the abandoned tracks into a railway. 

Hevesi supported the QueensWay when it was first conceived — “It must have been a decade ago,” he exclaimed — but he admittedly didn’t believe the plan would ever come to fruition.

He described arguments he used to have with Phil Goldfeder, the then-assemblyman of District 23, whose seat has since been filled by Stacy Pheffer-Amato. 

“He and I used to have arguments about it, and then we’d laugh because either one of the proposals cost billions. You’re going to get a rail, I’m going to get a park? Forget about it,” he said. “And then strangely, the QueensWay kept pushing. Adams bit, and put money behind it.” 

The QueensWay will cause trouble for Hevesi, he explained, because it runs behind the Forest Park Little League, so a plan must be made to work around this issue.

Although he supported turning the railroad into a park, Hevesi did sign on in support of a feasibility study for the QueensLink to see if there is a possibility of the park also serving as a transportation hub.

“I’ve been supportive of the QueensWay for a while,” he concluded. “It’s not my top issue, but I think it could be a very good thing for the community.”

To remain accessible to his constituents, Hevesi explained that the best way he can talk to the people in his community is by going door-to-door.

“If people don’t want to talk to you, that’s fine,” he said. “But the fact that you’ve shown up and taken an interest, and they have the opportunity to tell you something about the neighborhood? I think knocking doors is the best way to do it.”

Furthermore, when a constituent writes a letter or email to the assemblyman, he writes a letter back “in substance,” providing a full answer for their concerns.

Hevesi faces Mike Conigliaro this election, a Republican candidate who serves as the president of the Community Education Council – District 24 school board. The election is on Nov. 8.

Ron Kim squeaks by opponent to win primary

New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim pulled it off. The incumbent in the race for the 40th State Assembly District, which encompasses Flushing, College Point, Whitestone, and Murray Hill communities, won the primary election on June 28, defeating political hopeful Kenneth Chiu by a small six percent margin—receiving only 221 votes more than his opponent according to unofficial tallies from the State Board of Elections.

“It’s hard to earn the trust of marginalized Asian working people who feel unsafe and insecure. Still, for the first time in Flushing history, we achieved this by winning an election centered around worker rights for home care attendants,” Kim said via Twitter following the results. “We won at a time when Asians feel most vulnerable by talking about the ongoing racial and gender violence against Asian immigrant women. From evictions to stolen wages, we centered everything around their pains and voters responded.”

Kim became the first Korean-American elected to the state legislature in 2012, filling the seat vacated by future Congresswoman Grace Meng, which he has held for the past 10 years. During his tenure in office, he has consistently stood up to corporate interests, leading the charge against the development of Amazon’s HQ2, he has been outspoken against Gov. Cuomo’s failure to react in the face of the COVID-19 nursing home deaths, and has continued to be an advocate for small business, elderly residents, and immigrants living in the district.

“In my 22 years in Flushing politics, I have never seen as much shady real-estate money poured into an election as I did this time around,” Kim said. “For weeks, I have encountered endless negative attacks trying shamelessly to distract, lie, and erase the work my office has done and will continue to do for our seniors and immigrant workers. To those dark money groups – I want to say thank you. You have affirmed my belief that I am taking on the right people, the people who exploit the fears of others to enrich themselves.”

Unlike past elections—including the 2020 primaries where Kim won against Democratic candidate Steven Lee by a nearly 40 percent margin—the 2022 primary election was a tight race right up to the end.

Chiu, founder of the New York City Asian American Democratic Club, previously ran against Assemblywoman Nily Rozic in the 2020 primary election. After being contested over the validity of his ballot signatures at an in-person hearing with the Board of Elections, Chiu’s candidacy was withdrawn from the race, handing the Democratic party line to the incumbent.

This year, however, Chiu took no quarter, giving Kim a run for his money in a nail-biter at the polls.

Kim, having just barely won the Democratic ticket, still has more campaigning to do before the general elections in November, when he will face off against GOP candidate Sharon Liao to keep his seat in Albany.

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Johanna Carmona

Johanna Carmona, a Sunnyside native and former Hispanic community liaison for outgoing Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, announced her bid for the New York State Assembly’s 37th District.

Nolan, whose district whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.

Carmona, 32, is a lawyer who previously worked special victims for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. She has also been endorsed by Nolan, who has represented the area for decades and felt she is the most qualified to succeed her up in Albany.

The main reason Carmona is running for the Assembly is to help give her community substantive representation at the state level.

“The neighborhood’s growing, but at the same time, it still has the same values that I feel are there from when I was little,” Carmona said in an interview. She emphasized that the tight-knit community of Sunnyside has been instrumental in her own life, like when neighbors helped her Dad with everything from babysitters to cooking a decent meal after Carmona’s mother suffered a stroke.

Carmona’s three top issues she’d like to tackle up in Albany are public safety, education, and affordable housing.

“The rent increases are going to be a concern because it also affects someone like myself,” Carmona said about the Rent Guidelines Board potential increases, adding that she’s been a lifelong tenant. Carmona supports Good Cause Eviction, a bill that would strengthen tenant rights with certain clarification to the language of the bill, saying that some terms such as what is deemed ‘satisfactory’ to the court are too grey and needs more clear definitions.

While Carmona is generally supportive of bail reform, she says the legislation could have been written more robustly before passing. The former special victims prosecutor said that the bill lacked key provisions and that her experience as a lawyer will suit her to write effective legislation.

“And then there was also another one where they didn’t include which was obscene sexual acts performed by a child, why wasn’t that included? My biggest thing is that I’ve dealt with victims, and my biggest proponent is to make sure victims are protected. And, of course, it was amended and included that, but you know, people have to understand that the wording has to be careful when something that passes so quickly,” Carmona said.

Carmona plans to laser in on lowering class size, funding for after-school programs, and expanding college access programs.

“Making sure we have solid college access programs, I think will be very beneficial because it’s a nice way coming from a family of very low income to segue into a better job,” Carmona said, specifically highlighting how an NYU program helped her in her own life.

While Carmona has her main issues, she also would like to focus on otter topics like climate policy. Specifically, she’s looking at ways to revitalize Newton Creek, such as using the waterway as a source of renewable energy and utilizing discretionary funds to expedite the clean-up timetable.

Carmona has been hitting the district one door at a time, even giving her personal cell phone number to potential voters to make sure she is accessible to the community.

“The majority of people just want a better quality of life,” Carmona said about her conversations with voters across the district. “It comes down to people protecting their families, being able to afford their homes, and being able to just go down the street and say I can come back home safe. And honestly, it’s just that’s what’s been resonating throughout the whole district.”

Carmona will be facing fellow candidates Juan Ardilla, Jim Magee, and Brent O’Leary in the Tuesday, June 28 primary.

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