The interview with Michael Ricatto conducted for this story took place on Monday, Jan. 5. The article was written on Tuesday afternoon, prior to a fatal accident in which Ricatto’s campaign bus struck and killed a 9-year-old boy in Ozone Park around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday. Ricatto has since suspended all campaign activities.
Michael Ricatto spent practically all of Monday talking. He introduced himself to hundreds of people, chatted with acquaintances and consulted with dozens of volunteers, who had, that morning, kicked off his campaign.
The 52-year-old Republican businessman still has a lot of talking left to do: just one month after Ricatto officially announced his run for the 32nd Council District seat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg set a date for the non-partisan special election.
Ricatto and at least five others have until Feb. 24 to gain recognition and earn the confidence — and votes — of residents of Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Rockaway.
They are competing for the seat vacated on Jan. 1 by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who served as the district’s councilman for seven years before defeating former Sen. Serphin Maltese on Nov. 4.
Although he decided to run about a year ago, Ricatto didn’t publicize his intentions until mid-December, leaving him in a position where he now has to play catch up. But he claims that in the short time since he announced his candidacy, “name recognition is getting to be quite good.” The reason, Ricatto said; “People like what I have to say.”
One thing he repeatedly says is no to tax increases. “I don’t believe we should have tax increases on property taxes now. The economy can’t afford it,” Ricatto said. “We’re going to drive people and industry further away from New York by doing that.”
Already, the city is competing with some “very fine” areas, including Long Island and New Jersey, for both their populations and industry, according to Ricatto, a former Long Island resident.
“We can’t make it too expensive for people to live here and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “Instead of increasing our base for taxes, we’re increasing taxes on our base and making our base smaller.”
The city has to put an end to this, the former exporter said. It has to “invite industry and people back to the neighborhood because that’s where they belong.”
Citing planned tax increases and recent talk of toll placement on the East River bridges, Ricatto said he thinks the government is “trying to overextend its bounds.” As someone who has always believed in small government and low taxes, Ricatto refuses to stand for that. “If I’m in City Council I’m going to do my utmost to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” he said.
Excited for the election and to do what he calls a “civic duty,” Ricatto is giving the campaign his all. And, he is confident it’s going to pay off. “I’m a businessman. I’m not a gambler,” he said.
“Being a businessman, you tend to put your money where you think you’re going to have success. Well, I’m putting my time, effort, energy into something where I believe I am going to have success. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
Ricatto was set to hold a meet-and-greet event at his campaign headquarters, located at 161-08 Cross Bay Blvd. in Howard Beach, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 8. Due to the fatal accident in which his campaign bus was involved, Ricatto suspended all campaign activities, including this event.
Among the contenders competing with Ricatto are Democratic District Leaders Frank Gulluscio of Howard Beach and Lew Simon of Rockaway, and Ozone Park Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich.
Rockaway resident and retired NYPD lieutenant Glenn DiResto, and Sal DiBernardo, who is running as an independent, also declared their participation in the 32nd Council District seat special election.
Another likely candidate who has not yet officially declared a run is Democratic District Leader Geraldine Chapey of Rockaway.
The candidate elected in February will serve as a City Council member until the term ends next January. He or she must get re-elected Nov. 3 in order to serve the next four-year term.