BY JON CRONIN
Queens Democratic Party candidate Mike Scala said that he is sticking to the issues most significant to his neighborhood—transportation, housing and getting Hurricane Sandy victims back on their feet—in his bid for the 32nd City Council District seat.
Upon sitting down with the PRESS of Southeast Queens’ staff, Scala said that his Republican opponent, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), has “not been a fighter” when it comes to creating better transportation in South Queens.
Scala added that he is knowledgeable when it comes to transportation; he is the vice president of the Queens Public Transit Committee, an outspoken advocate for reopening the LIRR line between Forest Hills and the Rockaways.
Scala, a Howard Beach attorney, said that the transit committee has also been fighting against the “disastrous” Select Bus Service implementation on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards.
Scala has also served as co-chairman of the Rockaway Ferry Committee and aided the New York City Economic Development Corporation in preparation for citywide ferry service.
He criticizes Ulrich for running for a third term and claims that in 2010, his opponent opposed third terms.
Despite running against an incumbent with years of experience in the district, Scala believes that he has a good chance of beating him.
“Lew Simon almost beat him four years ago,” he noted, adding that when Simon had a cardiac incident that kept him off the campaign trail in 2013, he only lost to Ulrich by 6.2 percent.
Scala also pointed out that demographics have changed in the region, citing that Hillary Clinton won 70 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election.
“People want to send a message that this is not Trump’s city,” he said.
Scala said that, if elected, he would implement a program to award money to people whom he considers victims of Build-It-Back and Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re going beyond an investigation. We’re actually calling for restitution for the victims, for their pain and suffering,” he said.
Scala has experience in drawing up legislation and getting it passed. He was a legal counsel and legislative director in the 201st New York State Senate. He drafted, negotiated and proposed legislation. While in Albany, he aided in managing more than 150 bills, some of which were passed—including one to help veterans find work and another that required police to report missing adults to a national database.
He has consistently criticized Ulrich for “flip-flopping” on whether the state should hold a constitutional convention. Initially, he said that Ulrich wanted to vote in favor of one “if pensions and collective bargaining are not touched.”
“You can’t do that,” he said. “It’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Scala also accused Ulrich of being an obstructionist, adding that his opponent criticizes the mayor, but does not come up with his own solutions. Scala referred to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiatives as “a mixed bag.”
He added that Queens—a borough in which drivers rely on vehicles—has been hurt by Vision Zero. He also doesn’t understand why the mayor went ahead with Select Bus Service plans after the community board rejected it.
“I want to see more respect [for Queens] coming from the mayor’s office,” Scala said.
Scala believes that Ulrich’s support of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) will hurt him, adding that he doesn’t agree with her stance on allowing noncitizens to vote.
“That’s why people should aspire to become citizens,” he said.
Prior to his legal career, he followed a passion for music, performing as rapper Pizon—which has drawn attacks from Ulrich. Scala, whose music and rap videos are easily found online, acknowledged the attack on Facebook:
“While sometimes vulgar (and it’s easy to cherry-pick specific lyrics and disregard positive messages or attribute some lyrics to me that were written and performed by someone else, as they did), the characters portrayed tended to receive their comeuppance by the end of the song or album.”
Scala pointed out that Ulrich has noted his own evolution while in office.
“It goes without saying that the man writing this today, the Democratic nominee for New York City Council, has come a long way since youth,” Scala wrote, adding that “they are looking for dirt from many years ago, before I was a public official and grew into the candidate I am now.”