2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council District 50?

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From left to right: George Wonica, David Carr, Jordan Hafizi

Staten Island’s sprawling, Mid-Island-based 50th City Council District encompasses the neighborhoods of Arrochar, Bloomfield, Bulls Head, Castleton Corners, Chelsea, Concord, Dongan Hills, Egbertville, Emerson Hill, Fort Wadsworth, Graniteville, Grant City, Grasmere, Heartland Village, Isle of Meadows, Lighthouse Hill, Manor Heights, Meiers Corners, Midland Beach, New Dorp, New Springville, Oakwood, Ocean Breeze, Old Town, Prall’s Island, Richmondtown, Rosebank, Shore Acres, South Beach, Todt Hill, Travis, Westerleigh, and Willowbrook

The district is currently represented by Republican Councilmember Steven Matteo. Matteo, a Staten Island native and the youngest of three sons, also serves as the Council’s minority leader. He has served the 50th Council District since 2014, but is term-limited, and cannot run for re-election.

Seven candidates are currently registered to run for the seat, according to the most recent Campaign Finance Board filings. Of them, just three responded to PoliticsNY’s questionnaire about their positions.

Here are those responses, which have been edited for length and clarity, ordered alphabetically by last name.

David Carr (Republican)

David Carr

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

David Carr: New York City is at a pivotal moment in its history  The decisions made by the new leaders elected this November will determine the long-term trajectory of the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those decisions will have a tangible impact on small businesses fighting for survival, public school parents and students who lost an entire year of education, and residents who can least afford to pay more in taxes and tolls to make up for the city’s budget shortfalls. 

I am running to ensure that Staten Island’s 50th district is effectively represented in the City Council during this critical time. Moreover, I am running to fight against the inevitable flood of radical progressive policies that threaten to destroy the quality of life for Mid-Island residents. 

NYP: Tell us about yourself, i.e. what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

DC: I am a lifelong resident of Grasmere in Staten Island’s 50th City Council District. Before attending Georgetown University, I was educated in Mid-Island schools: St. Christopher’s, P.S. 48, St. John Villa Academy, and Monsignor Farrell High School. 

Since 2014, I’ve had the privilege of serving the 50th District as Chief of Staff to City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. In that role, I’ve worked to advance legislation, address crucial quality-of-life challenges, and help constituents resolve a diverse range of issues. 

NYP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

DC: The Mid-Island, like the rest of the city, will be struggling to recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Councilman, I plan to make small business recovery a priority. Working with BIDs, merchant groups, and individual proprietors, I will pursue a multi-pronged action plan to help small businesses get back on their feet.

In order for businesses to thrive, it is absolutely necessary to address the erosion of public safety caused by the misguided policies of the de Blasio administration and radical progressive City Council majority. I will fight vigorously, as Minority Leader Matteo has, against proposals that seek to undermine or weaken the NYPD.

I will also work to fully reopen, and keep open, all public schools for in-person instruction, combat any proposals to increase taxes, and ensure that the city doesn’t disproportionately burden Staten Island to close budget gaps. In addition to voting “No” on radical progressive bills, I will fight to eliminate the most harmful provisions of those bills that will pass despite my opposition. 

NYP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

DC: Minority Leader Matteo has passed a record 24 pieces of legislation as of this writing, delivered millions in city funding for the Mid-Island, and established a gold-standard constituent services operation. It has been a privilege serving as his Chief of Staff and playing a role in that important work for residents of the 50th district. 

As Councilman, I plan to continue and build on the exceptional records of my recent predecessors. 

NYP: What’s your political experience?

DC: I have served at every level of government. Since 2014, I have served as City Council Minority Leader Matteo’s Chief of Staff. In addition to government service, I’ve been an active member of the Staten Island Republican Party’s County Committee and served as First-Vice Chair. 

NYP: What endorsements do you have?

DC: Staten Island Republican Party; City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo; Councilman Joseph Borelli; Assemblyman Michael Tannousis; New York Young Republican Club.  

Jordan Hafizi (Republican)

Jordan Hafizi

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

Jordan Hafizi: I’m running to represent the people of the 50th district, and give them a voice that they haven’t had under past administrations. It’s time that a true proud citizen becomes the face of this district and not another established politician whose turn it is in the political merry-go-round. I am very concerned with the issues I see this community facing. I’ve never even wanted to run for office but with radical progressive policies threatening the quality of life for thousands of Staten Islanders, now is the right time for the right person to get involved. The Republican Party is in desperate need of a new voice, and I can be just that, the voice that backs the people of the 50th District.

PNY: Tell us about yourself, i.e. what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

JH: I have had a very impressive academic career as a full-time student who managed to work 40 hours a week at times to ensure I was financially stable due to high college tuition. I am very well known within my community as I have served as a writer for the Staten Island Advance and volunteered my time to instructing disabled students at a local karate school. I have been a Staten Island native my whole life and was born and raised right here in the 50th District, which is why I hold the public interest here so close to my heart.

NYP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

JH: An issue that I will attend to is the broken healthcare system. Two of my main proposals to support easily affordable and accessible healthcare will be free Epipens for all students with severe allergies under the age of 18, and providing free yearly access to yearly full-body cancer screenings to those over the age of 40. Another local issue I will attend to is the revitalization of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk & Beach here on Staten Island. I will do this by cleaning up the beach and adding vendors to the boardwalk such as games, food, retail, etc. 

NYP: What will you do differently than the incumbent? 

JH: Be a leader who is a person, and not a politician. We have been stuck in a sick and twisted political merry-go-round for too many years now. I am currently running against politicians who have been a part of the broken system for years. I am here to break the cycle of broken promises, stand up to do-nothing politicians, and give the people a leader who will deliver on his promises and act upon the issues facing the community.

NYP: What’s your political experience? 

JH: I have experience volunteering on past campaigns here in New York City, where I gained the experience and skill set it takes to put together my own run at a political position here in my district. The experience I gained, combined with the activeness I have in my community and fresh ideas makes me the perfect representative for the people of the 50th District. I have no one in my pocket and will truly have the best interests of Staten Islanders at heart.

NYP: What endorsements do you have?

JH: I am not beholden to any organization and therefore have decided not to seek any endorsements. I only answer to the citizens of the 50th District.

Marko Kepi (Republican)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running?

Marko Kepi: I am running for the City Council because New York City is the place that gave myself and my family great opportunities to succeed. I am troubled by the direction the city is taking, specifically in regards to public safety and quality of life. There is nothing more important to residents and their families than to feel safe in their communities and feel as though they are enjoying a high standard of living in light of the taxes they pay. We have seen an increase in organized anti-police movements, and elected officials who have been silent in fighting back against these radical groups. It is tragic how the police reform movement has left the men and women who protect us with almost no allies in government. I will be a councilman that stands up for those that put their lives in danger to defend our families.

NYP: Tell us about yourself, i.e. what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

MK: Staten Island is my home, the place where I started my journey to become a United States Marine, a title many dream of having yet very few actually achieve. I am a graduate of Wagner College and hold a Masters in Executive Business Administration. In the 50th Council District, I founded a non-profit organization that has raised over $1.6 million for victims of a terrible earthquake that shook Europe. Additionally, throughout the course of this COVID-19 pandemic, I have worked on many other activities, including the delivery of more than $10,000 worth of groceries to families in need. I formed a political club, New York City Republicans here in Staten Island, where we have worked to elect Republican candidates across New York City.

For the past six years I worked for former State Senator Marty Golden, a true public servant and a man who never disrespected our men and women in uniform. He always delivered for his constituency, and I am proud to have been part of his staff. For me, it has always been about making sure people can have their problems addressed and improve their quality of life. I have worked in the private sector, with non-profits and with an elected official, so I will bring to this position a unique perspective. I understand the challenges New Yorkers face and I understand the city and state agencies well enough to get started for the people on my first day in office. I am currently a manager for a security company in New York City.

NYP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

MK: Some of the challenges facing our district are, public safety, high property taxes, traffic due to the lack of public transportation such as “Fast Ferries” and the decay of our roadways that at times have more potholes than pavement.

NYP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

MK: The position will be vacant due to term limits and so I would rather not compare myself to the incumbent. I am not running against Councilman Matteo but I do believe he has done a good job in serving the needs of the district during this time in office. I look forward to building on his accomplishments to make a better Staten Island. I will also be a loud supporter of our law enforcement. They will know they have a true ally in City Hall with me.

NYP: What’s your political experience?

MK: I have worked in many political campaigns, from Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign to numerous local Republican races including former Congressman Michael Grimm and former Senator Marty Golden.

NYP: What endorsements do you have?

MK: So far, I am proud to have the support of Congressman Michael Grimm, Senator Marty Golden and the New York City Republicans.

George Wonica (Conservative)

George Wonica

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

George Wonica: I’m running for City Council because I’m not satisfied that our big issues are being addressed, from property taxes to quality of life. More and more people are moving out of Staten Island and New York state and government is to blame. Being a small businessperson for the last 28 years, I don’t need this job. I’m running to truly make a difference in my community.

NYP: Tell us about yourself, i.e. what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

GW:  I’ve been a licensed real estate broker for the last 28 years in a family owned business. A native of the Westerleigh section of Staten Island, I am a former member of Community Board 1, a past president of the Staten Island and Brooklyn Board of REALTORS, and a youth sports coach (baseball at Snug Harbor Little League and basketball at St. Teresa’s).

NYP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

GW: Property Taxes and Small Business Over Regulation: Coming out of this pandemic, it is important that we get out businesses back on their feet. Burdensome regulations that our businesses have to deal with should be rolled back until the economy gets back on its feet and then reevaluated to see if they are truly necessary. Property taxes NEED to be simplified. PERIOD. 

NYP: What will you do differently than the incumbent? 

GW: [There is] no incumbent [because the] current councilman is term-limited out, however, the chief of staff is running as well. I would tackle the big issues as well as the small. I would also have monthly meetings with the community stakeholders to hear their concerns on new legislation.

NYP: What’s your political experience?

GW: No political experience, which is an asset, in my opinion. I have NO ONE to answer too, other than my constituents. I’m not afraid to call out things that need to be addressed. I’m not running to “go along to get along.”

NYP: What endorsements do you have?

GW: The Conservative party of Richmond County has endorsed my candidacy, at this time.

Additional candidates

There are four additional candidates for the seat. Sal AlbaneseSam Pirozzolo, and Kathleen Sforza did not respond to PoliticsNY’s requests for comment.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with Marko Kepi’s answers on April 28.