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Mike Gianaris: On the NY Senate Track

Photo: QueensPost

May 13, 2010 By Christian Murray

Mike Gianaris, a youthful progressive from Astoria, is the strong favorite to be the next state Senator for the 12th District of New York, which includes Sunnyside and Woodside.

Gianaris (D), who is a low-key, yet visible 40 year-old, would make quite a contrast to the current state Senator representing the district, George Onorato (D), who is stepping down after 27 years in office.

Onorato, 82, had been widely criticized by some of his constituents for not being progressive enough. Many voiced their displeasure when he voted “no” on a bill that would have allowed gay marriage – a bill Gianaris supported.

Gianaris has spent nearly a decade in the Assembly, representing the 36th District in Astoria. He is a Harvard Law graduate, who is best known in the assembly for sponsoring bills such as “the passenger bill of rights” that requires a minimum level of customer service from airlines, and the Energy Security Act, which deals with securing the state’s power plants and transmission centers.

“I have experience as state legislator, I’m an independent thinker and I’m looking to reform Albany,” Gianaris said, while speaking to the Sunnyside Post, at Foxy’s Diner recently. “The state is going through a fiscal crisis. There is a budget hole of $9.2bn to fill and I want to help put the state back on track.”

Gianaris said he wants the Senate seat since his influence would be greater. Presently in the Assembly, his seat is 1 of 150, of which 107 are held by Democrats. In the Senate there are 62 seats, with 32 held by Democrats. Control of the Senate is up for grabs this election.

If elected, Gianaris would represent Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside. He has spent most of his life in Astoria, where he was educated in the local public school system.

However, many Western Queens residents know him for his work tackling Con Ed in the Assembly following the 2006 blackout. Furthermore, he played a large role in the closing of the Charles Poletti power plant in Astoria, which affected air quality in Western Queens. The Poletti plant was an oil burning generator that was the biggest polluter in New York City.

The Reformer

Gianaris is sponsoring a bill through the Assembly that would help reinvigorate New York State’s anemic democracy, many political observers say.

He wants electoral districts to be determined by a nonpartisan, independent commission in 2012 — based on the 2010 census data. Presently, the political parties (through deal making) determine the boundaries. This mechanism, which often results in some very odd looking geographical districts, helps incumbents retain their seats for decades.

There is a strong chance that this bill will get passed as it is being pushed by New York’s political power-brokers such as former Mayor Ed Koch.

Tough Times

Despite the state’s fiscal problems, Gianaris said he does not believe that the state should increase taxes.

“Taxes were raised last year. It would be short sighted to do it again,” he said.

He said that the state should make cuts–however, the cuts should be done carefully.  The state should preserve as much money as possible in key areas such as education. For example, “We have to maintain education as much as possible. We need to keep universal Pre-K. Schools are an investment.”

He said he is also concerned about cutbacks to Queens’s library services, since many low-income workers, immigrants and children rely on libraries for education and access to computers. Many adults use library computers to find work.



Gianaris recognized that residents in Sunnyside and Woodside are frustrated by the lack of park-space and green-space. He said, while state funding will be tough to get at present, he does have experience in turning unused sites into parks.

“Everyday, I would see this industrial eyesore across the street from PS 2 [in Astoria]. “We got some state funds, negotiated with the owner and turned it into a park,” Gianaris said, adding that it was named Carlos Lillo Park, after a local EMT worker who was killed in the Twin Towers attacks.

Gianaris has the backing of all the big names in the Democratic party, including: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside), Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (Sunnyside), former Sunnyside councilman Eric Gioia, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (Maspeth), Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr.(Astoria) and Onorato.

As of May 1, he is yet to be challenged by a fellow Democrat in a primary. While that might change, he will be a tough candidate to beat.


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Technically there are zero candidates right now, petitioning doesn’t begin until next month.

Yes the Assemblyman is the only person to have announced, and yes the party is solidly behind him. But my point is: if you don’t like any of the candidates, do something about it.

Over the age of 18 any resident of the state for 5 years and resident of district for 12 months immediately preceding election may run. All it takes is 1,000 signatures gathered over June/July.

factual correction...

The race for City Council that Freerick was in had multiple democratic candidates in the primary. There is only one choice in the primary for this race. There is no choice for democrats.


The “Democratic machine” was lined up behind Freerick for city council last year, from Congressman Crowley on down, and she lost handily. Crying “the fix is on” is not only factually wrong, it’s also an empty argument. If you don’t like the Assemblyman, that’s fine, but do something about it… While I disagree with Anon, at least he points out there other options.


How about actually voting for a Conservative for a change? Democrats are destroying New York.

sunnyside resident

There is nothing in this article that says anything about what Gianaris has actually accomplished for the community during his years in office. Introducing a bill and posing pretty for the cameras means nothing.

Queens residents are not being given a choice here. The powerful Queens democratic machine pressures potential democratic primary opponents to drop out. Don’t be fooled. This candidacy has been manipulated to ensure a victory.

They say people get the politicians they deserve. Do we deserve this?

Where are the Independents? The Greens? Any Democrats with courage?

Albany has become a big private club that we all pay for and get nothing from.

Wake up Queens!


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