Gioia: Local Politics Within A Bigger Picture
was a scheduled luncheon get together with City Councilman Eric Gioia. The
bright young former White House attorney had impressed us during the
campaign and his first year-plus in office seemed to bear out the rave
reviews we regularly receive from our old friend Robert Zimmerman – who
was not only tied into the Clinton White House, but seems to know everyone
of national political significance. Each of our encounters with Gioia was
positive; plus the young women in our office seem to be more taken with
him than they are with most elected officials — never a negative in the
elective office game.
Eric Gioia & Michael Schenkler
by Angela Montefinise
when Eric suggested an interview, I invited him to the office for lunch
and asked what type of food was his favorite. Consistent with his atypical
persona, Eric said, “Thai.” It was fine with me, especially with the
marvelous food prepared by Bell Boulevard’s Erawan. Angela Montefinise,
our Trib political writer and an Erawan regular, was joining us
along with Eric’s press guy, so she made the food arrangements.
food was wonderful, the hour and a half chat with Eric was even better.
first word that comes to mind when you think of Eric Gioia: passion.
a young man who prides himself on being a neighborhood kid. Gioia clearly
loves what he does and gets genuine satisfaction out of seeing the streets
where he grew up change for the better as a result of his hard work.
nibbling on Thai fried rice and spring rolls, Gioia proudly discussed how
he helped get computers for P.S. 11, started a baseball league in Long
Island City and helped clean up Roosevelt Avenue by using the Doe Fund.
sounds hokey,” he said after swallowing a piece of Lemongrass Chicken,
“But it’s all worthwhile when you look around and say, ‘This
happened because I was here.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
while Gioia may thrive on what he brings to his Western Queens district,
his mind is always looking above and beyond those boundaries and on to the
is always thinking globally.
doesn’t look at his accomplishments in a vacuum. He looks at them as
pieces to a bigger plan.
has a vision for his district – a vision supported by Long Island City
baseball leagues and cleanliness on Roosevelt Avenue. He wants to see a
“Museum Mile” along the Long Island City waterfront. He wants to see
the first bank open near the Queensbridge Houses. He wants to see the end
of graffiti in his district.
wants to see positive change in all aspects of life in his district, not
only on one repaved street or in one renovated park.
looks at adding cultural centers and investment into his district as a
move that would improve the entire City economy. He explained that
previously, the City put all its eggs in one basket – Wall Street –
and once the basket started breaking, so did the City’s economy.
suggested the promotion of tourism and said that by revamping his
district, “It would become an economic engine for all of Western
also looks at the big picture when it comes to his profession. He believes
keeping the streets clean and providing other constituent services are
ways to improve the public’s view of elected officials.
need to reaffirm people’s belief that by acting collectively we can make
a difference. People don’t trust people in power now.” He said,
“Philosophically I’ve always been opposed to term limits” as a means
of keeping public servants honest,
but said, “They have worked well in the Council.”
endorsed the idea of term limits in the State Legislature, and said,
“Even a good garden needs a weeding once in a while.”
for himself, he’s trying his best to be an accountable and strong
legislator. “I’ve been a janitor and elevator operator, I’ve worked
in the White House and I’ve been a lawyer at a Wall Street firm, and
I’ve never worked harder than I do in this job.”
may be true, but recently Gioia got himself in some political trouble when
Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley stepped down at the request of Beep
Helen Marshall – a move Conley said was requested by Gioia.
explained that he and Conley had a “non-relationship,” and said, “An
important element to being a community board chairman is having a
relationship with the City Councilmember. If you don’t have that
element, you’re probably disqualified from the position.”
maintained that he was not the reason that Conley stepped down, and said
he scheduled lunch with Conley. “What’s done is done,” Eric
explained. “We’re taking the first steps towards a relationship and we
should take it from there.”
also added, “Nobody cares about this. People like controversy, but this
has been such a miniscule part of the last six months, of the last two
years . . . I don’t have a personal problem with Joe because I don’t
know him. I don’t even know if he likes the Mets or the Yankees.”
(a raging Mets fan, by the way) said, “I really think I’m doing the
right thing” when it comes to the Conley situation, and said, “I
didn’t create a bad relationship. But you can’t have friction like
that and have a community board run smoothly. We need to work for the
people. That’s what I’m focused on.”
also focused on improving the City’s financial situation, and advocated
reinstituting the commuter tax.
He said he wished Mayor Mike would have “put Pataki’s feet to
the fire a little bit more,” but said of the City’s esteemed leader,
“The jury’s still out. He still has time. I think all of us [in the
Council] are hopeful that he will do better . . . You can’t write a
review of a play during intermission.”
about an hour and a half of chatting with Gioia, it was clear that he’s
intelligent, well read and focused. He quotes Winston Churchill, mentions
dozens of political books he’s read, and loves talking politics, even if
it is occasionally off the record. He’s sharp and inquisitive, and looks
at the world with a global vision that makes him interesting and a
challenge to interview.
besides being ambitious and smart, he’s a good guy. He actually brought
the luncheon leftovers from our Thai feast out to the editorial department
himself. “Where do you want me to put this stuff, guys?” he asked the Trib
editorial staff, showing a bit of class and a great deal of press savvy.
looks to a career of public service but is realistic that in the game,
it’s hard to plan. You do a good job and hope you’re in the right
place at the right time.
There are probably many present day players who will be future
political stars. But if I had to guess which City politicos will be real
players, on a national level 20-plus years from now, Eric Gioia would be
near the top of my list.
contributor Angela Montefinise
Your Garbage To Work’
good idea speaks for itself.
good ideas don’t become reality, but they change perceptions.
McDonald: A Trashy Idea?
Photo by Ira Cohen
this year we wrote about Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.’s secession
legislation beginning the process to explore the feasibility of New York
becoming the 51st state. Clearly, Vallone really wanted to express
frustration and dissatisfaction concerning the treatment of our City by
idea — very low reality quotient.
a new idea had come along that knocked Secession off the top of the list
of ideas of the year. Let me share it with you.
Thomson came rushing over to me last Thursday night. Terri and I are old
friends who don’t get to see each other often. After a very brief
how’s the family, work, business exchange, Terri dragged me through the
crowd at the Democratic County dinner to meet Gert McDonald.
Terri claimed, had the best idea in the world — or something like that.
a Sunnyside civic activist now in her fifth decade of stirring things up,
serves on the Community Board and is one of the longtime omnipresent
players in her community. As a matter of fact, her daughter, Citibank’s
Eileen Auld, informed me, she was the first woman to run for Assembly in
our borough — some forty years ago.
idea was in reaction to the Mayor’s most recent Sanitation Department
cutback and its impact on our borough.
that Mayor Mike’s — and I’m still a fan of his — latest cost
savings effort would cut garbage pickups in Queens to once a week, while
Manhattan would get relieved of its trash three times weekly.
you got it right. Queens once, Manhattan thrice.
live in Queens, you gotta store garbage for seven days. You live in
Manhattan, you can get garbage out of your house before the stench sets
how does one respond to yet another outrage in the ongoing history of a
Gert McDonald did it with clever class: “Take Your Garbage To Work.”
every Queens resident working in Manhattan brought their trash with them,
perhaps we could equalize this latest injustice perpetrated upon our outer
perhaps the presentation of the idea would cause our city fathers to wake
up and recognize that all garbage is equal.
are all people no matter where they live.
Mayor, trash this idea. It’s garbage.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com