What makes a politician? A person that “advocates for the community,” according to 22-year-old Eric Butkiewicz. In fact, this is what he aspires to be if elected as one in November.
The Middle Village resident is the Republican challenger against incumbent State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Woodside, Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Ridgewood, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, and the Rockaways) in State Senate District 15.
“For me, I want to put my time in, serve the community, and move on. I’m not looking to do this my entire life,” he said. “I think that’s what a politician should be.”
This is his first campaign—less than a year after graduating college—that launched early last month and received an immediate endorsement from the Libertarian Party of Queens. An entrepreneur, Butkiewicz is with a bachelor’s degree from CUNY Baruch College, where he studied public policy.
If elected, Butkiewicz would address several local issues from transit to affordability. For instance, he would reverse a ban turning left onto Union Turnpike that was enacted by DOT for Select Bus Service lanes. He supports SBS but feels there must be a compromise for both drivers and riders as the ban caused more traffic headaches.
“It’s these little things you can’t notice unless you talk to people in the community. They haven’t been advocated for because we don’t have elected officials out there talking,” he said.
Butkiewicz also favors reducing waste in the MTA. He wondered why the agency spent so much money and time on projects such as modernizing the signal system that is a century old. He supports the MTA’s plan to use cellphones to pay for Metrocards. Still, he feels more must be done to ensure a modern MTA such as with its subway cars.
“Why is [it] acceptable in New York City to have these ancient subway cars when Led Zeppelin was still around? It’s insane,” he said.
A community-based approach is a key platform for Butkiewicz, which is reflected in his attendance around the district. The city’s decision to build homeless shelter in Maspeth is an example that the Republican candidate cited as a failure of talking to people.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent tour of NYCHA housing is another example that Butkiewicz noted came at the “last minute.”
“We should proactively do these things rather than the last possible second to do it,” he said.
Despite the dominance of Democrats in Queens elections, Butkiewicz is optimistic based on the success of other upset victories in the borough. He cited State Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth) and City Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodside, Woodhaven) as two examples.
Butkiewicz accused Addabbo of being a “career politician” building on name recognition and coming from a political machine He acknowledged that the State Senator’s incumbency might be an issue yet felt confident to overcome it.
“I have a pretty strong network of people that I can touch upon,” he said. “But Joe snaps his fingers and raises $100,000.”
The Middle Village native is determined to prove he is not only qualified for the seat, but also is eager to help residents. He shared that people have reacted well to his campaign as constituents “want to see a young face.”
“We don’t want someone who wants to be a movie star, look good for the cameras, and go home,” he said.
Addabbo responded that he has focused his work on “solely assisting my constituents and being their voice in Albany.”
The general election is November 6.