Primary Day is Thursday, September 13. Town & Village is running bios of Democrat candidates for the positions of Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge and the State Senate seat to be vacated by Tom Duane.
This article was originally published on June 28.
By Sabina Mollot
Not long after State Senator Tom Duane announced he wasn’t seeking reelection ― and that he thought a friend, attorney Brad Hoylman, would make a good replacement ― another challenger for the Senate seat announced he too would be running. That candidate was 36-year-old Thomas Greco, owner of Hell’s Kitchen gay bar/lounge, The Ritz. Though not gay himself (he’ll be married to fiancée Tia in a week) Greco said he is a big LGBT advocate and also said if elected, his top priorities for the 27th senatorial district would be affordable housing and education.
Greco said his decision to run was made recently, pretty much right after Duane’s announcement that he wouldn’t be running. Part of the reason, he explained, was the way that particular bombshell was dropped, including the endorsement for Hoylman it led to.
“He did it at the 11th hour,” said Greco of Duane. “He did it in a way where no career politician could have the option of getting a campaign together.”
Greco, however, said he wasn’t deterred by all the publicity for Hoylman, noting that as the owner of a business, he has some startup cash for a campaign.
He opened The Ritz in 2006, though he’s also been the part-owner of a restaurant with his brother, Philip Marie, since 2001 and he also owns an LGBT bar called Posh. Prior to those ventures, the Park Ridge, New Jersey native worked as a financial consultant for A.G. Edwards.
As for his latest endeavor, already, Greco’s gotten started collecting signatures, saying he hopes to get quadruple the amount he needs to avoid any potential ballot challenges.
What’s also helped him beyond the immediate need to fundraise is that he’s active in two political clubs, as the executive vice president of the McManus Midtown Democratic Club and director of fundraising for the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. Otherwise, Greco said he considers himself a political outsider, and it’s this that he feels makes him the right person for the job.
“Because I don’t have an alliance with this politician and I’m not worried about making that one mad,” he said. “I just care about what the district needs and I don’t care how many eggs I have to crack to get it done. I’m the kind of guy who just keeps running into walls until the walls start falling down.”
On issues facing the district, Greco said affordable housing was something he’d fight for, because he’s tired of seeing longtime residents of his own neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, being priced out.
“I see all these massive buildings under construction and they’re all luxury high-rise,” he said. “We have to come up with a better plan, because now it’s becoming a gated neighborhood.”
Specifically, Greco said he thought there should be more tax breaks given as incentive to develop more affordable housing than the current 80/20 structure provides for. And not just dumpy-looking projects, either, but, he added, “a nice building where you give people some dignity.”
Another aspect of affordable housing would be the protection of what’s already in existence, including Stuyvesant Town.
“I feel what went on there was horrible,” he said, referring to the years of tenants being pushed out through residency challenges. “But I’m pro tenant.”
Education is another priority, with Greco saying he’s seriously been considering private school for his own children when he has them. “And why should I cough up the money for private school when I’m already paying all these taxes?” he said.
In his view, the quality of education offered would be improved through better communication between schools and parents, including allowing interested parents to know details like what’s in the lesson plans and what children are expected to know by the end of the year.
Another issue of concern, affecting the west side of the district, is the lack of a full-service hospital following the closure of St. Vincent’s.
This was one of the issues that prompted Greco’s run, because he said he wasn’t satisfied with the way the area’s elected officials responded to news of the closure.
“They kind of just let it happen,” he said. “They made speeches, but no one threw themselves in front of a bulldozer.”
Along with the area’s residents’ loss of access to healthcare, the closure caused a nosedive in business at nearby restaurants that relied on the patronage of physicians. “It was like a bomb went off,” said Greco, noting that one of the affected restaurants is Philip Marie. The Village’s restaurants, he said, have soldiered on, but one newsstand owner told him he’d lost 90 percent of his customers before ultimately deciding to close.
“It’s like they looked at the first ripple, but not the other ripples,” Greco said.
Being a restaurant owner himself, Greco said even if he does end up in Albany, he would still identify as a businessman rather than a career politician.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing this as a public service,” he said. “I’m not making a career move. I have a career. I have my business. I’m not going to make deals so someone can benefit me.”
* In related senatorial race news, a recent published report alluded to the fact that Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh could also run for Duane’s Senate seat. However, an employee at Kavanagh’s office said last week he definitely won’t be running.