Michael Conigliaro, 51, is a Rego Park resident along with his wife Connie and their two daughters. Raised in Kew Gardens, he understands the needs of the district quite well. Michael, a graduate of Richmond Hills High School, continued on to Queensborough Community College, St. John’s University, and Concord Law School. Professionally, Conigliaro is an attorney office manager for a powerful real estate office and maintains a full volunteer calendar in addition to his religious obligations. Politically, Conigliaro once vied for the District 15 NYS Senate seat, and today pledges to work with complete transparency to his constituents and with all his colleagues when elected to the City Council. Conigliaro is a lover of Queens’ history and has much respect for the elder community. Michael is proud of the cultural diversity of his hometown and is running on the Republican and Conservative lines to represent the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and Richmond Hill in the City Council in the General Election to be held on November 2.
Michael, it is once again a pleasure to speak with you. I commend you for giving your time to our audience. The primary election was not all that long ago, our neighborhoods were up against various candidates in the Democratic primary and yet here we are again preparing for an election.
BJL: Tell us, what made you decide to seek a seat in the City Council as our representative?
MC: I am running for City Council to bring a voice back to the people of District 29 that truly represents their values. As a resident of the district, I have noticed a huge decrease in the quality of life, and unfortunately a huge increase in crime. We even have a proposed jail right here in Kew Gardens! I have noticed a lack of leadership and I am watching as our education system is being hijacked by progressive ideologies. I want to use my position in the City Council to advocate for all my constituents to better represent the district once again.
BJL: Thank you for bringing up the proposed jail. It seems to remain the hot topic in our area. What are your feelings about the having a jail erected in Kew Gardens?
MC: I would look to stop the jail from being built here in Kew Gardens. The money that would be spent building the skyscraper jail facility should be allocated to modernizing and restoring Rikers Island. When elected, I plan on taking a full tour of Rikers Island to find out exactly what needs to be done. I will also work with the new mayor and the Department of Corrections to fix these issues. Rather than putting a new jail in our district, I would work to add a hospital.
BJL: It is no secret that crime has been rampant in District 29. The next City Council Member must rise to the challenge of restoring order and reducing crime. What plans do you have in store to minimize lawbreaking?
MC: To reduce crime, we must support the NYPD which I wholeheartedly do. I will vote to increase the funding of the NYPD to bring beat cops back on the street and not only bring back the anti-crime unit but expand it. As your City Council Member, I would look to increase penalties for hate crimes and look into bringing back the transit police. In addition, I would give our police officers the proper tools to take the handcuffs off the police and put them back on the criminals where they belong. Finally, I pledge to work with our State Assembly and State Senate to repeal the terrible bail reform law that is destroying our city.
BJL: We just watched as Mayor De Blasio withdrew from SHSAT and the Gifted and Talented programs. What are your feelings when it comes to this agenda?
MC: As a member of CEC24 I have advocated for both the SHSAT and Gifted and Talented programs. If elected, I would work with our new mayor and new school chancellor to keep the SHSAT as the sole admissions test for a specialized high school and to make sure the Gifted and Talented program is preserved now and in the future. I would also like to add that our education system is on the verge of a progressive takeover and our children should not be used as political pawns to try to incorporate an ideology that will not benefit anyone.
BJL: We have watched as hotels in our district along with city streets and our subways have become a home for the homeless. What is your plan to combat the destitute in our society?
MC: I agree the homeless situation is out of control. First, I would ask the City Comptroller for a complete audit of the city’s $2.2-billion-dollar homeless services budget. I would then ask for the resignation of Commissioner Banks due to his handling of the homeless situation. I hope to work with the State Senate and Assembly to create legislation that would make New York a resident-only state. To allocate shelter for the individuals in question, I would look to bring back faith-based shelters that had once provided homeless individuals a safe place to stay for the night. This program was later dismantled by Mayor Bloomberg. I would also investigate re-invigorating Section 8 housing. Such a program would give people housing assistance (a program that stems from the Federal government) while working towards complete independence. I would attempt to take the buildings that the city has foreclosed on as a means to house the homeless population that have substance abuse issues or mental health battles. Finally, I would like to use discretionary funding to buy transportation vehicles and uniforms and give the homeless people in our area the ability to have paying jobs aimed at clean up our neighborhoods. Not only would this raise their self-esteem and give them a means for income, but it would also lead to the beautification of our district.
Michael, as you are aware the readership of our publication is widely Jewish and supporters of the Sand of Israel. Do you believe the claim that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor?
MC: Absolutely not, that is total hypocrisy.
BJL: Continuing this topic, are Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel?
MC: No, Jews have different opinions like any other people of any democracy, and they are responsible for their actions. The State of Israel is a democracy and as a matter of fact the only democracy in the Middle East where incidentally Arabs and Muslims have more rights than they have in other Arab and Islamic countries.
BJL: As a follow up, do you believe support of the BDS movement against Israel is anti-Semitic?
MC: Yes, I do. It is a subterfuge of antisemitism. Israel is the only country being threatened by many nations and terrorist organizations around it.
BJL: So, will you support Council resolutions expressing solidarity with Israel and opposing BDS?
BJL: Earlier this year, a young man whose parents grew up in our community was recently hospitalized after he was beaten by pro-Palestinian “demonstrators.” Then, we watched the news unfold of a man who threw bricks through several synagogue windows and had been arrested more than 40 times only to once again be released without bail.
Given the overall increase in violent crime in general and anti-Semitic violent hate crimes, do you believe we should reconsider “bail reform” laws?
MC: First and foremost, I would look to create legislation that brings harsher penalties for those who commit hate crimes against any race, ethnicity, or religion. Hate crimes are unfortunately on the rise and should not and will not be tolerated. I one hundred percent believe that the “bail reform” laws should be repealed. What these laws have done is create a system where criminals get arrested and get out before the ink is even dry on their paperwork. The bail reform laws are destroying the moral fabric of our society and I will work with the State Senate and State Assembly to repeal these terrible laws.
BJL: Many people in our community support the public school system by paying taxes, yet have chosen to send their children to yeshivahs, where they can be educated according to our religious beliefs. Do you support tax credits for families that send their children to yeshivah?
MC: Yes. I support providing yeshivahs with transportation, school lunches, textbook loans, and other supportive services? Yeshivah students enter the workforce contributing much to the social and economic fabric in the United States.
BJL: Do you support the proposal to allow the New York State Department of Education to determine how many hours can be spent on religious education or who is qualified to teach in a yeshivah?
MC: No, because there is a different curriculum and requirements in religious education which the DOE is simply not familiar with.
BJL: Councilmember Karen Koslowitz was extremely helpful in providing funding for Jewish institutions in the district. We do not expect you to make commitments about funding, but can you tell us what Jewish organizations in the district you are familiar with or have worked with and which you would consider funding?
QBSP-Shmira, Masbia Food Pantry, Chazaq, Hatzolah, Beth Gavriel Bukharian Synagogue, Chaverim, Emet Outreach.
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