BY MICHAEL PERLMAN
Michael Conigliaro, a Rego Park resident who is a longtime community advocate, is now a District 29 City Council candidate. With a hands-on and proactive approach built on an aim to restore transparency and communication, he is ready to serve all residents of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and Richmond Hill.
He was raised in Kew Gardens and also spent a good share of his time in Richmond Hill as a graduate of Richmond Hill High School, but has walked nearly every street of the district. For residents who volunteer with him or have yet to meet him, his slogan “An everyday man working for everyday people,” will continue to come into the spotlight.
For Conigliaro, District 29 is his livelihood.
“This is my home and where I grew up. It’s culturally and demographically diverse, historical, aesthetically pleasing, and has mom and pop shops,” he explained. “Queens represents 27 percent of our city’s population and is most diverse, just like our district. District 29 is a perfect example of what Queens offers.”
Conigliaro is an attorney office manager at a successful real estate law firm, a Lector at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills, is the co-founder of the Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative, a Forest Hills Tea Garden Restoration Committee co-founder, and a 4th degree member of Knights of Columbus Msgr. Sherman Council 5103 in Glendale.
At 51 years old, he has learned much about community and ran for NYS Senate in District 15 in 2016. Most recently, he decided to run again and appoint Fred Darowitsch as campaign manager, Ryan Kelly as treasurer, and Michael Perlman as community project advocacy director.
Running on Republican and Conservative lines, he plans to work with everyone, even if they hold different values. “I will be able to look past petty political differences and work with people across the aisle in the council, state senate, and the state assembly. A person can pursue this only if they have respect and treat each other not as politicians, but as fellow Americans and New York City residents.”
To restore transparency, he assures that outreach from constituents will no longer be ignored. He said, “Transparency is key in politics. We will coordinate youth programs, town hall meetings, walks with the councilman, daily and weekly live streams, and have routine communication with the press and regularly published newsletters offline and on social media.
As a family man, friend, professional, and District 29 City Council candidate, his values can be represented as the HEART acronym. “I embrace ‘Honesty’ or integrity in all pursuits, ‘Empathy’ as in my desire to understand how people feel, taking ‘Action’ to best serve the needs of people around me, having ‘Respect’ for diverse personalities based on morals since childhood, and ‘Togetherness’ since a healthy community is built on unity and partnerships to benefit the majority.”
Conigliaro’s values from early in life will influence his community leadership. “My Father Sebastiano says ‘Be a leader and not a follower, have compassion for others, and there’s always two sides to a story. My business partner Peter Cardalena, Jr. says ‘Don’t expect others to treat you the way you treat them or to hold the same values as you, but treat everyone with respect.’”
As a father who plays a role in local education, he said, “I only want the best for our children.” He serves on the St. John’s University Criminal Justice Advisory Board in a curriculum planning capacity, and is being interviewed for Community Education Council District 24.
One of his goals is to help the community cope with the pandemic and emerge with greater strength. “Small businesses are the backbone of our district and their business is their livelihood. I would create legislation that would even the playing field with respect to moratoriums on commercial and residential evictions, where I would create a pause on real estate tax, water, and mortgage payments. This prevents tenants from being evicted and prevent landlords’ buildings from foreclosure.”
Conigliaro has much to say about his vision for safety. “I have seen consistent crime sprees evident in Walgreens and small businesses such as La Dolce Italia. Instead of bail reform and harsh budget cuts and cries for defunding, we should honor, respect, and work with our heroic members of the NYPD. Despite a mayor trying to micromanage the force, the NYPD remains determined to keep the crime rate low, so why should their authority to enforce the law be diminished? The current climate against them will not be tolerated if I am elected. I will do what it takes to support the 112th and 102nd Precincts and spread my sentiments citywide.” He advised residents to frequent “Build The Block” sector A and B Zoom meetings organized by the 112th Precinct Community Council, as well as similar 102nd Precinct virtual meetings. Part of his plan will entail working with volunteer patrol groups such as Queens Shmira.
Being a community watchdog and a good neighbor is essential, according to Conigliaro. In October, he took note of a sinkhole and went to a 108th Street intersection with a measuring tape after work late at night to help determine its severity. He maintained consistent communication with city agencies and residents, and within days, it was repaired, preventing a fatal accident.
Conigliaro opposes overdevelopment and supports historic preservation. “We began to make a difference with an online petition to preserve the 1939 World’s Fair-inspired Trylon Theater and save Ohr Natan synagogue & community center, a community favorite Tower Diner, and neighboring small businesses. Otherwise, it will be a 16-story high-rise. Overdevelopment detracts from the character of our district by displacing small business, is not aesthetically pleasing, and often sacrifices historic buildings.” Another one of Conigliaro’s current projects involves restoring the abandoned Tea Garden from 1912, behind Jade Eatery. He said, “This will beautify and grant full accessibility to a forgotten treasure.” In addition, he feels that landmarking should be pursued on a more local level. “We will advocate for the creation of CALM as in Community Advisement Landmarking Meetings, and push for legislation to grant residents more control.”
Conigliaro also recognizes the need for expanded senior care. “Our historic sites such as Parkside Chapels can be adaptively reused as senior centers rather than undergoing demolition,” he said.
Quality of life issues also rank high such as the Kew Gardens jail plan, which he is determined to prevent. He also has a history of organizing trash cleanups such as near Trader Joe’s, while city officials turned their back. “Throughout the district, I noticed grave signs of neglect such as an increase of graffiti due to the mayor’s suspension of the Graffiti Free NYC program, which is why I co-founded the Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative, and we recently had two very successful cleanups.” When asked what he learned, he responded, “All it takes is leadership, cooperation, and hard work, and people will follow suit to do what should have been underway long ago.”
Walking along Queens Boulevard, he noticed overgrown weeds on city property, trash, and empty tree pits. He said, “Trash cans are increasingly overflowing due to the city’s removal of trash cans, which is unacceptable and will add rodents. Queens Boulevard is unsightly and needs an aesthetic makeover. Let’s plant more trees and take suggestions from residents.”
“The power of a smile is golden,” said Conigliaro, who donated bags of toys to the American Legion Continental Post 1424. “It made me happy that children of homeless veterans in a shelter operated by the Red Cross would be able to celebrate the holidays with a smile instead of feeling alienated.” Looking ahead, Conigliaro’s Community Engagement Humanitarian plan encompasses events for each holiday including turkey giveaways, youth events, and toy drives, as well as blood drives, mammograms, and recycling events.
Conigliaro wants to leave a lasting impression on his two daughters. “When they get older, they can say that they were proud how their father worked day and night to enhance and maintain stability within our district and realize how I prevented people’s lives from being manipulated by a one-track, self-centered ideology of some other city officials and never looked for a proverbial pat on the back. Hopefully they will see how I always prioritized for constituents at the forefront of my term’s agenda.”
Residents can volunteer with Conigliaro’s campaign and learn more by visiting mikeconigliaro.com, “liking” his Mike Conigliaro for City Council Facebook page, or following @Conigliaro4cc21 on Twitter and Instagram.