I was seated at a window booth finalizing some last-minute notes at the Royal Restaurant, 7609 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, when John Quaglione, the last of the three men running in the 43rd District City Council Republican Primary that I was profiling, walked through the door.
Standing 6’2 and sporting a navy blue suit with a barely-visible houndstooth print, pale pink dress shirt and a flag-pin neatly placed on the lapel of his blazer, the Bay Ridge resident with the most comforting Brooklyn accent ordered a fruit salad and began to give me the scoop on his political start.
As a high school senior, Quaglione began working for the now State Senator Marty Golden when he ran for and won the same city council seat covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. Quaglione left for college before Golden was elected, but Golden’s thoughtful gesture of flying the American University freshman back to Brooklyn to celebrate his city council seat victory solidified a lifelong camaraderie between the two.
Quaglione worked full-time with Golden after graduating from college and remains his communications director. He recalled becoming passionate about politics immediately following 9/11, when then City Councilmember Golden turned his office into a relief center.
“And that’s when I really saw why an elected official matters,” said Quaglione. “That’s when I realized this what I want to do.”
The candidate said it is his work with Golden that has prepared him to work with agencies like the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Quaglione took credit for working closely with the state senator in reviving the weekend bus service for the X27 and the X28 that service, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.
“We have a high concentration of seniors here and we’re trapping them in on the weekends,” said Quaglione. Although the MTA bus project took nearly two years, he is confident in his ability to bring safe accessibility to some of the transportation in the area.
Quaglione noted how the district has a notably large community of seniors and some question whether the MTA’s current infrastructure will be able to accommodate them. There is also a more pressing issue of where those seniors will live.
“As urgently as we need to find new classrooms space we have to, at the same time, create senior housing because it’s becoming unaffordable,” said Quaglione. The candidate points to Shore Hill Housing as the only facility in the area. The 558-unit private apartment building for low-income seniors has a waitlist of at least several years.
Quaglione has served on the community advisory board for the Guild for Exceptional Children, a not-for-profit agency that services those with developmental disabilities. The candidate has also been active in the St. Anselm’s Church where he served on the parish council for six years and now serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors on the Saint Anselm Catholic Academy.
Since his tenure as chair, Quaglione has presided over an increase in enrollment and implemented a curriculum comparable to New York City’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program to remain competitive with neighboring schools. The candidate values Catholic schools and says it’s is unfortunate that the Education Tax Credit (ETC) legislation has not passed yet.
“If all the Catholic schools closed tomorrow, you’re looking at another 3000 – 5000 kids going into public schools that are already at a 140% capacity,” says Quaglione.
The father of two children born prematurely has co-founded a Brooklyn committee of the March of Dimes –– a nonprofit organization initiated to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
After about an hour of talk time, our conversation turned to the sensitive topic of opioid addiction, which has reached epidemic proportions in the district, and which Quaglione blames the use of marijuana being the gateway drug to the opioid problem.
“The mayor’s relaxation on the marijuana regulations, as I see it, is leading to the problem,” said Quaglione, adding that petty crimes like car break-ins and stolen packages left by courier delivery services have been an issue since the ensuing drug problem.
“The fact that it is killing our kids, impacting our quality of life and challenging our basic safety, supporting a new program in the district is something I am very into,” said Quaglione when asked if he would oppose additional drug facilities in the area.
The candidate supports increasing funding for children to go to sleep-away camp to additional facilities that directly treat the issue, but maintains, “the issue cannot be ignored.”
Quaglione also proposed an “eyes on the street” program where local police stations maintain citizen submitted cam-recordings of petty thieves in action and then upload them to a corresponding precinct’s website, allowing access to the community so they can identify perpetrators more easily.
“You’ll get some community involvement and get these guys off of the streets faster,” said Quaglione.
Quaglione faces Liam McCabe, Bob Capano and Lucretia Regina-Potter (who registered to run last week) in the upcoming Republican primaries on September 12.