At 24, Eric Ulrich may be the youngest serving New York City Councilmember – and having taken his oath of office on March 15, he is also one of the newest – but he still knows which side his bread is buttered on.
“I don’t have one boss, I have 77,000 bosses,” the Ozone Park native exclaimed, alluding to the number of registered voters in his 32nd Council District, an area encompassing neighborhoods from Woodhaven to the Rockaways.
Having won the Council seat vacated by State Senator Joseph Addabbo in a February Special Election, the fresh-faced Republican recognizes the fragility of his tenure, which could be terminated in November’s general election.
But he appears confident, and last Friday, April 24, he trumpeted the opening of his two district offices on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Rockaways and on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park.
“It’s a great day, not only for myself but for the community,” Ulrich said outside his Ozone Park office, sandwiched between a deli and a bodega on a nondescript block, where supporters mingled, snacked and admired his new digs.
Ulrich said his offices, in locations accessible to his constituents, allow him to represent them effectively. The job of a City Councilmember, he asserted, “is to help people who feel they have nowhere else to turn.” People “can dial 3-1-1 until their fingers fall off,” he added, crediting 3-1-1 as a very helpful tool, “but at the same time people need a one-on-one contact…”
Neighborhood resident Donna Caltabiano, who lives half a block outside Ulrich’s district but runs a senior center in its confines, said the location of the newcomer’s office was key. Located across from a school and nestled amongst stores in such a vibrant community, a visit to 101st Avenue is now “like one stop shopping,” she said.
In an effort to maximize his accessibility to people like Caltabiano, Ulrich will spend just one day a week at his City Hall office and split the remaining four days between his new district offices, with most evenings spent at community meetings, he said.
As for his politics, Ulrich recently became a sponsor of the “super-majority tax bill,” a bipartisan effort that would require two-thirds of the City Council to approve any laws or resolutions that raise taxes.
Largely outnumbered by Democrats, Ulrich said his minority party affiliation grants him a sense of independence – “We can disagree without being disagreeable” – but he said he champions a non-partisan approach to government.
“There’s no Democrat or Republican way to pick up the garbage or police the streets,” he said.
With his oversized office phone number – printed in six-inch type and visible from across the street – on the wall behind him, Ulrich admitted that his fate rests with the will of the electorate.
“Look, I put my trust and faith in the hands of the voters because they’ve put their trust in me. They’ve elected me to serve them. They want me to perform, they want me to deliver for them – that’s what I’m committed to doing,” he said. “If I do it well they’ll give me the thumbs-up again. If I don’t do it they’re going to find somebody else.”