It should be noted that DiBernardo submitted only 275 signatures to the Board of Elections of the 1059 signatures needed to be on the ballot...
Sam DiBernardo considers himself 74 years young. The Korean War veteran and retired educator from Howard Beach, one of seven candidates in the Feb. 24 non-partisan special election for the 32nd Council District seat, takes to the streets daily, knocking on doors and collecting signatures to get his name on the ballot.
“I’m quite bright and spry for that age,” DiBernardo said. Always keeping active, he paints, sculpts, draws, plays the guitar and sings. He also writes poetry and a column, called “Funny You Should Ask,” which he is attempting to get syndicated.
DiBernardo has also made two previous attempts to enter the political world, the first in the mid-1970s for a seat in Congress and the second for City Council. The longtime resident said he lost as a result of redistricting issues.
The candidate’s focus in this race is education. “I think I can make a difference,” he said, noting his long history as a teacher. Having lived in Ozone Park and Howard Beach for close to 60 years, DiBernardo has taught in many of the area’s schools, including P.S. 207, M.S. 202 and John Adams High School.
Improving the state of education in the city is a top priority for DiBernardo, who believes “children should be nurtured in superior and safe schools.” The local man said his resolve to win the race is driven by his dedication to the community.
But before he can make any sort of impact at City Hall, DiBernardo must get his name on the ballot. In order to do so, he must collect about 1,000 signatures from residents in the 32nd Council District, which includes the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Howard Beach and Rockaway, and file his petitions by midnight on Jan. 15.
To meet that deadline DiBernardo said he has been “busy as a one-armed paper hanger,” filling out and filing necessary paperwork, and knocking on doors. DiBernardo said he is’'t sure if he’ll collect the required number of signatures by the deadline.
He then imparted some advice for his fellow contenders: “Don’t challenge each other’s petitions. Let the voters decide.” Otherwise, he added, everyone will get involved in legal disputes and, in the end, no one will get on the ballot.
While DiBernardo has nowhere near the name recognition as some of the other candidates — like Democratic District Leaders Frank Gulluscio of Howard Beach and Lew Simon of Rockaway, and Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich of Ozone Park — he believes he is the most experienced person in the race.
He says his qualifications, which include a strong background in education and business, make him the ideal candidate. “If I were a racehorse and running a race, I’d be running in the Kentucky Derby and they’d be running in some small racetrack in East Podunk,” he said.