By Clifford Michel | October 31, 2019
Staten Island resident Sam Pirozzolo went viral in 2016 after erecting a giant sign supporting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo: Nicholas Rizzi/DNAinfo
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The Staten Islander who planted a towering “T” on his lawn during the 2016 presidential campaign to show his support for Donald Trump is now looking to get his own name out to voters.
Sam Pirozzolo is running as a Republican for City Council, looking to succeed Steven Matteo (R-Staten Island), who is term-limited at the end of 2021 and eyeing a campaign for borough president.
“I’m not ‘making New York City great again,’ but I will not back away from Donald Trump like every other politician on Staten Island when it’s convenient for them,” Pirozzolo said.
Pirozzolo gained national notoriety after hiring a local artist to create the 12-foot-high letter T, emblazoned with stars and stripes, which turned into a lightning rod as the race between Trump and Hillary Clinton heated up.
An unknown arsonist burned down the capital letter in August 2016. When Pirozzolo reconstructed the T — upsized to 16 feet — the city Department of Buildings fined him $2,400 and demanded he take it down.
Optician Sees a Need
Now the 55-year-old optician, who has a shop in Astoria, Queens, wants to join Trump in assuming political power. The Castleton Corners resident says his race is about “bringing common sense, not nonsense, back to city politics.”
He’s running on an old-school conservative platform he says is a necessary counterweight to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who “does not govern New York City.”
Rattling off his priorities, he says: “I’m in favor of lower taxes. I’m in favor of lower unemployment.”
Sam Pirozzolo works in his Castleton Corners home on Oct. 30, 2019. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY
This is not the first political foray for Pirozzolo, who filed paperwork in August for his Council run and hired a Social Impact Strategies, a political consulting firm.
He campaigned unsuccessfully against Assemblymember Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) in 2012, garnering about 40% of the vote in the general election.
Pirozzolo may have a better shot at the mid-Island City Council seat, which has been consistently occupied by Republicans.
Also seeking GOP voters’ support for a 2021 primary is George Wonica, a realtor and registered Conservative who plans to run for both the Conservative and Republican ballot lines.
“That’s fine,” Pirozzolo said. “Primaries are healthy.”
Suing for Schools
“T” also happens to be Pirrozolo’s middle initial, for Thomas — and sure enough, an image of his iconic red, white and blue lawn sign features prominently on his website and in campaign literature.
“This man has just done tremendous things,” he said of the president. “Staten Island was pro-Trump, so it would be foolish for anybody to think that opposing Trump in a Republican run for office is the way to go.”
During an interview with THE CITY Tuesday, Pirozzolo said he wanted to be a check on the mayor and the City Council’s progressive policies. He’s opposed to politicians receiving pensions and pondered whether Gracie Mansion would be better used as a homeless shelter.
He railed against Council attempts to rein in single-use plastic straws, and said the city has slid back in dealing with homelessnes. As for the mayor, Pirozzolo sees de Blasio as too hostile to the NYPD and too cozy with the United Federation of Teachers.
“The quality of life for the New Yorkers in the lower income segments has diminished terribly under the de Blasio administration,” said Pirozzolo.
Pirozzolo served for seven years as president of Staten Island’s Community Education Council, an advisory body to the city Department of Education.
At the CEC, he called for buzzer entry systems at the main entrance of all public schools and successfully petitioned the city Education Department to put gifted-and-talented classes in Staten Island middle schools.
A ‘Feeling of Community’
As vice president of the grassroots New York City Parents Union, he’s a plaintiff in two lawsuits: Davids v. State of New York, which challenges teacher tenure laws; and New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights v. State of New York, which seeks to compel the state to release additional funds to New York City schools.
“I have already accomplished in my professional career and in education, what other candidates would be talking about wanting to do,” said Pirozzolo.
The small business owner said he wants to bring “kitchen table” issues back to city politics, such as paving roads, expanding transportation options and reducing property taxes. He’s already advertising a local phone number where he takes calls from voters directly.
“I want Staten Island to remain a nice place to live for my children and my grandchildren,” said Pirozzolo, a lifelong Staten Islander. “I want to preserve that special feeling of community.”