By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Over the last 10 years, I’ve watched the jewel of Brooklyn go down, down, down,” Andy Sullivan said, referring to Bay Ridge, the community he grew up in and the neighborhood he loves.
Sullivan, a bar owner-turned construction worker, said he is the man to bring Bay Ridge back to its glory days. He recently announced that he is running for the Republican nomination in the race for Bay Ridge city council seat. Democrat Vincent Gentile has represented the neighborhood in the council since he won a special election 2003.
Sullivan, who is also seeking the Conservative Party nomination, contends that Gentile hasn’t done much for Bay Ridge and that things have gotten worse under his watch, especially for the small business owner.
“Small business is hurting and it’s trickling down to the community. Small businesses are the economic engines of a community. If they’re in trouble, everyone’s in trouble,” Sullivan said. “Not only is there too much government, no one wants to take the time and trouble to open a business anymore.”
There are too many agencies slapping law-abiding store owners with too many excessive fines for minor infractions that shouldn’t be investigated in the first place, according to Sullivan. “It used to be that the city agencies said ‘Hey, we’re doing this for your own good.’ Now, they have these inspections for punitive reasons. There are too many agencies and everybody is taking their pound of flesh,” he said.
“It’s not worth it to have your own business,” Sullivan said. “And a lot of this has happened on Mr. Gentile’s watch,” he said
Sullivan said he owned bars on Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue two decades ago an d found the constant inspections by the Health Department to be oppressive.
If elected to the city council, he said he would fight for small businesses. “I would set up a hotline for small business owners to call if the city or state is inspecting them. I would let these agencies know that I’m taking a close look at them. If we start tracking these people, maybe they’ll leave business owners alone,” Sullivan said.
“My message to business owners is, ‘Let me do your fighting for you,’” he said.
Sullivan has lived in Bay Ridge since his family moved here when he was 10 years old. He went to Our Lady of Angels Catholic School and Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, http://www.bishopfordhs.org/ where he played on the school basketball team. “I grew up on the lower end of the economic scale. I’m a street kid. I know what it is to have nothing. I can help the Republican Party connect with the blue collars workers,” he said.
As a teenager, Sullivan played in rock and roll bands like Self-Indulgence and Men With No Pants in local bars. “My first job was as a waiter at Circles. Now, my son is working there,” he said.
Sullivan has also been employed as a construction worker and is a member of Local 1974 of the Drywall Tapers Union. He has been a construction supervisor at the Freedom Tower under construction at the World Trade Center site. He was outspoken in his opposition to the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, the cultural center advocated by a group of Arab-Americans that caused a great deal of controversy due to its planned location near Ground Zero. The plans were put on hold after a public outcry over the mosque.
Sullivan will likely have to face John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), who has said he plans to run for the Republican Party nomination to take on Gentile in November.
Sullivan is directing his firepower at Gentile. “He has been your typical political party hack,” he said of the incumbent.
Sullivan had harsh words for a labor-related bill Gentile sponsored that was approved by the council. Under the bill, employers would not be able to discriminate against unemployed people by advertising job listings as “only employed need apply.”
Sullivan said the bill should not become law because it would cause employers to cut back on hiring. “It’s ridiculous. This bill equates being unemployed with being a member of a minority. You are removing the incentive for business owners to hire people. They would be afraid of lawsuits. They would be afraid of being sued by a person they choose not to hire,” he said.
“Soon, it’ll be against the law for a business owner to ask for a resume,” Sullivan said.