What’s your best memory of growing up in Astoria?
My best memory is that it all felt like one big happy family. So many of your neighbors were close to you, and everyone went to the same school. Every day there was something happening, friends were always hanging out. There was a real sense of community. Everyone was connected, through family and friends. You couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone from school, or someone from your parish or sports team. Also, I was in the first graduating class of St. John’s Prep, so I really feel an attachment to the school and the area.
Do you think growing up in a political family influenced you as a politician?
Absolutely. I grew up hearing stories about my grandfather, and seeing my father. I really respected what my family had done for the community, and I grew up in a really special world because of it. I realized from a very young age how important it is to give back. That’s the main lesson I wanted to teach my children. I learned from the best and wanted to continue it from there. I wanted to create in a new district what my family had created in Astoria. Now my children are seeing firsthand how you can foster a community and bring people together.
Your father and brother were both Councilmen of Astoria – did their experiences help you as a Councilman?
All City Councils have their similarities and differences. My brother and father faced similar challenges as I’m facing now, but a lot of different ones as well. Every year there’s battles about services the city provides. I was able to learn a lot from them, but I’m also learning from the unique issues I face.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Astoria in the past few decades?
The funny thing is how little Astoria has changed. There have always been the thriving cafes, the one and two attached family homes, people visiting Astoria Park and the swimming pool. There’s such consistency. What has always drawn tenants is how beautiful Astoria is, and what keeps them here is the sense of community. There’s so much from my childhood here that I can relate to, and I still see.
When you come and visit Astoria, where are your favorite places to go?
My home. I can’t think of any place that I love more. As soon as I take the 31st street exit, I go straight to my Mom and Dad’s house. As always, my Mom has the door open and I can smell what she’s been cooking. My parents are there waiting, and my brothers come by, and it’s just a wonderful feeling of family. It translates over to my children, because they get to see the bond between our family, and the bond within the community. It really is something great.