By Sabina Mollot
For Stuyvesant Town resident Frank Scala, this is not his first time running for office in a race as a longshot candidate. In fact, it was just two years ago when Scala, who’s also the president of the Albano Republican Club, entered a race without even trying to win. He was completely inactive, merely giving Republican voters a chance to enter the name of someone from their own party.
This time, he’s running as a candidate for the New York State Assembly, 74th District, against Brian Kavanagh. In the last state election cycle in 2014, Scala ran against State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“Most of the time, people don’t vote for the person, they vote for the party,” said Scala, a native of Sicily, who, after over half a century living in the United States, still has the accent of his homeland intact.
For the past 40 years he’s been a barber at La Scala, a shop he owns, in an office building on Fifth Avenue. Ryant Serhant, a realtor featured on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” is a weekly client as are a number of others in show business, Scala said, along with more corporate types.
Overwhelming positive Yelp reviews commend his haircutting style and his providing of a “man’s man” environment, complete with racecar art on the walls and a stash of Playboys to peruse through.
As for his current political campaign, Scala said he initially had just agreed to run at the request of the party, intending once again to run inactively.
However, he said this week that he now wants it to be a “legit” campaign, focused on helping the working class.
Prior to that shift, when asked about his inactive campaign, Adele Malpass, Manhattan GOP’s chairwoman, indicated that the organization didn’t have the resources to focus on that race as well as another it is focused on in the 73rd Assembly District. (Kavanagh’s district is the 74th.)
“The Manhattan GOP is in a rebuilding mode and we have to be strategic about allocating our resources,” she said in an email.
Still, Malpass praised Scala as a small business owner who “should be applauded.
“He consistently puts his community first supporting various nonprofits and community events and that is why we are proud that he is running on the Republican ticket to represent this district,” she said.
Prior to his 2014 run for office, Scala did make an effort to get elected in other races.
He first ran for City Council about 15 years ago for the 1st District, when he lived in Battery Party City. In 2006, after moving to Stuyvesant Town, he ran a spirited campaign for the Assembly.
Those races were based around a platform of protecting the status of rent-stabilized tenants, improving public schools (Scala’s wife Melanie is a public school teacher), protecting quality of life in the district, and imposing tougher penalties on anyone who commits a crime against a senior.
And, said Scala, those priorities haven’t changed over time. “I want to help my neighbors and small business people,” he said. “We need working class politicians to help working class people.”
As for Scala’s resume, he has a long history as a community activist and a political activist. He’s a member of Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities Committee, which has an advisory role over liquor license approvals and renewals. In the world of local politics, he got his start running a club called New Amsterdam in Battery Park City.
When he moved to Stuyvesant Town around 15 years ago, he said then-Governor George Pataki, who he called “a great guy,” asked him to revive the inactive Albano Republican Club.
“Albano died and the club slowed down a lot,” Scala said in reference to Vincent Albano, the late former New York Republican County Committee chair.
Scala was happy to accept the challenge, noting that Albano was actually his mother’s maiden name. Since that time, Scala’s been the club’s president and has seen membership grow to over 100 people. The core membership is much smaller, around 40, but a handful of group members meet regularly, thanks in part to the complimentary buffet dinners at monthly meetings held at First Avenue sushi restaurant Hane. Asked if the free food attracts freeloaders who are not actually interested in local politics, Scala said, “Yes,” but didn’t indicate that he has any plans to end the practice.
The meetings often involve presentations from Republican candidates. Other activities include those traditionally conducted by political clubs like petitioning for candidates and holding an annual street fair. The club held this year’s fair in June on Lexington Avenue, where members helped register voters and solicit poll workers due to a local shortage. Additionally, $1,000 out of the revenue the club earned from the event will be going to the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association. The club has written checks to this organization a few times previously, to help pay for summer events at the park.
Scala has also, for over a decade, been involved with the 13th Precinct Community Council. The council holds monthly meetings that give community residents the chance to interact with cops on crime and quality of life issues. Scala began as treasurer and later became the council’s president.
He’s also a military veteran, having served three years in the Italian Navy on a ship called Amerigo Vespucci. When he got out in 1963, “My parents and all my family were in New York. I was alone so when I got out of the Navy I came to this country,” he said.
Since the decision to run actively, Scala said he was told he’d get some support from Manhattan GOP to help promote his candidacy. Because of this, he said he won’t be seeking campaign donations.
Meanwhile, when asked by Town & Village about Scala’s run (prior to the announcement that it would be an active one), Kavanagh said in the six times he’s run, he’s always had to face off against some challenger, at least on paper.
“I think it’s good for the voters to have a choice,” Kavanagh said. “I look forward to talking about my record and the issues with Frank and the voters.”