When Lou Puliafito looks around at the Upper East Side, where he was born and raised and where he continues to live and work as a doorman, he sees a place where his grandchildren couldn’t afford to live — and for him, that’s an exasperating realization.
“What I’ve been seeing in the city is that there is no future for my grandchildren, or for everyone that’s looking for work today in their twenties and thirties,” Puliafito said. “The streets are unsafe, housing is unaffordable, wages are stagnant, homeless are left to their own devices. There’s rampant corruption and mismanagement at the state and local level.”
All of this is to say, Puliafito is fed up with the leadership in New York City. So he’s running for office.
“To help my family, I need to help everybody’s family,” Puliafito said of what’s fueling his campaign to unseat Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright on Nov. 3.
According to Puliafito, the 76th Assembly District, which covers parts of the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, desperately needs change.
“Rebecca Seawright, she’s just a rubber stamper for the party. She does what they say,” Puliafito said of the incumbent Democrat, who is being forced to run as an Independent because of an error made in filing paperwork for her candidacy. “One of the failures in only having a one-party town is you don’t have any accountability.”
In an attempt to disrupt that status quo, Puliafito is running as a Republican, which is something he said he never imagined he would do. In 2018, Puliafito ran for the seat as a third-party candidate. But this time around, the GOP offered to back him, so he accepted.
Working Night Shifts
Puliafito, though, said he’s more of a centrist and a throwback to another era. He calls himself an ordinary guy who understands the stresses of working class New Yorkers. For the better part of his career, Puliafito worked in IT for several corporations. He came out of retirement five years ago and started working as a doorman to help support his children’s family. Puliafito said he’s been working night shifts and watching his grandchildren during the day.
And, if elected, he said he would not be beholden to either party.
“We shouldn’t follow party lines, we should follow what’s right,” he said. “And that’s where I come in here. I’m gonna vote for what’s right. I don’t care what the Republican Party tells me. I don’t care what the Democrats lay out. What’s right is right.”
When it comes to policy, Puliafito said no one party has a monopoly on good ideas. He said he shares some of the same goals with the political left, but might not agree on the path to get there. He didn’t offer specific policy plans, but said he wants everyone to have health care, a livable wage and affordable housing. As a member of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, Puliafito said he’s very supportive of unions and believes in their value. He also said the city and state need to do their part in ending systemic racism.
COVID-19 and Families
As for the pandemic, and how the city moves forward, Puliafito said the government needs to continue to follow the science to keep people safe from the virus. He said he is acutely aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on families. He now rarely sees his grandchildren because of the virus. He said he even has to take precautions at home because he lives with his 90-year-old mother-in-law, who is a cancer survivor.
“I work as an essential worker as a doorman. I meet a lot of people, and I’m campaigning now too. I cannot bring COVID home,” he said. “I wear the mask even at home.”
As New York recovers from the pandemic, Puliafito said the government needs to focus on small businesses over corporations. He wants to give small businesses a lifeline and would support canceling the commercial rent tax. He also said he would support canceling rent and mortgage payments to prevent people from experiencing longterm economic hardship.
“The focus of our money is for ‘Main Street,’ and for the people at home suffering,” said Puliafito. “We have to make sure that individuals and families don’t carry pandemic debt all their life.”
As a member of the Assembly, Puliafito said his guiding principles would be empathy — something he said he believes has largely been lost in government — and to always love your neighbor. It’s an awfully earnest approach to working in politics, and maybe even a naïve one, but Puliafito believes it’s what is needed at this crucial point of the city’s history.
“We need to understand each other, and when we understand each other and look at each other as peers, we really get things done. We can reach across the aisle,” he said. “People are hurting here. People are actually hurting, and we really need to help them. And you can’t have ‘me against them,’ it’s us.”
“We shouldn’t follow party lines, we should follow what’s right. And that’s where I come in here. I’m gonna vote for what’s right.” State Assembly candidate Lou Puliafito