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City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) promised to make decisions based on principle, not party affiliation, if he is elected to the state Senate this fall after a campaign where the councilman finds himself battling both sides of the aisle.
Ratcheting up his campaign efforts heading into a September primary on both the Republican and Independence party ballots, the councilman addressed the ideals he believes separates him from his opponents and from others in his party during an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last week.
“I’m used to fighting my own party and the other party. I wear that as a badge of honor,” he said. “I think that makes me a better elected official. When I run into constituents on the street, they say, ‘Good for you, Eric.’ I’m not in anybody’s pocket and I don’t always tow the party line — what you see is what you get.”
Ulrich is facing Forest Hills lawyer Juan Reyes in the Republican primary and Joseph Tiraco in the Independence primary, both set for Sept. 13. If he passes those two hurdles, Ulrich will square off against Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) in the November election for the 15th Senate District seat, covering Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Rego Park and Sunnyside.
The councilman is running in the primary without the backing of the Queens Republican Party, which opted to put their influence behind Reyes instead. Ulrich said he was not surprised by the borough GOP’s decision to endorse Reyes since he has never set out to please Republican Party leaders.
“At some point I realized that [the Queens Republican Party] are useless. They do nothing to grow the party or to help the party,” he said. “When you have someone trying to make a difference, that should be our shared goal. If we can agree on something as Republicans, it’s that we should want to get our own people elected.”
Ulrich believes he will win the election based on the strength of his convictions and his straightforward approach. He backs raising the minimum wage and rent stabilization, while also supporting the city’s stop-and-frisk program to curb gun violence.
As for the minimum wage, Ulrich said it is impossible to expect working-class people to raise a family and pay bills with the current minimum wage of $7.25. He said the high cost of living in the state coupled with high taxes make living on such wages close to impossible.
“We can debate what minimum wage should be and how often it should be increased, but I think given the fact that some of the states in the our region have higher wages already, maybe it’s time for New York to look at raising ours,” he said, adding that while not all small businesses are thrilled with this prospect, good businessmen would be able to adjust and plan accordingly. “This is the cost of doing business in New York.”
Rent stabilization is another topic Ulrich strongly favors, having voted twice in the Council to extend laws barring against raising rent of affordable housing across the city.
“I have seniors living in the Mitchell-Lama housing and the Dayton Towers in the Rockaways. I can’t raise the rent on these people, they live on a fixed income,” he said. “It comes down to helping people who are trying to make ends meet and letting them know that I’m going to be there for them and I’m not going to let the government reach into their pockets. It’s not only about taxes, it’s about helping people survive and helping them be able to afford to stay in the place they’ve lived for so long.”
And Ulrich said he wants people to feel safe where they live. He believes the stop-and-frisk program has helped turn around many troubled neighborhoods throughout the city, but the biggest gun problems in New York are caused by laws on the books in other states, according to Ulrich.
“New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The problem is with the laws in Virginia and South Carolina and Tennessee, where you can buy a gun and then 24 hours later drive over the Verrazano Bridge,” he said. “I’m all in favor of fully enforcing the gun laws we have and making sure people who use illegal firearms go to jail.”
Ulrich also said he knows transportation is a major issue for his constituents, especially the need for a dedicated bus lane on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.
“It’s a disgrace when the city Department of Transportation] comes in and puts in bike lanes where people don’t want them, installs red light cameras, but when we ask them to put up a stop sign or a bus lane, it’s like talking to yourself,” he said.
When addressing his possible opponent on Election Day, the councilman said Addabbo has not done enough to ensure Resorts World Casino in South Ozone Park has done enough local hiring. The casino giant’s contract promised 70 percent of its workforce would come from local hires — as it stands now, the casino has fallen short of that promise.
“Having a racino in his district has been beneficial to some, but not as many as they promised,” he said. “You can’t say they are pushing to hire more people from Howard Beach or Ozone Park, because the numbers show they are not. And my idea of creating jobs is not fixing a slot machine for $7 an hour. That’s not what creating jobs is all about, but that’s what Joe Addabbo wants to run on.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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