SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — It appears that the Brooklyn GOP is getting serious about reclaiming the State Senate seat that Marty Golden held for 16 years and lost to current State Sen. Andrew Gounardes in 2018.
On Feb. 20, the party unanimously endorsed Vito Bruno, a successful business entrepreneur and renowned music industry impresario, who says he’s running on a platform to restore “common sense” to the community.
Bruno, who has also received the endorsement of the Kings County Conservative Party, believes that his successful background in business as well as the fact that he is not part of the political establishment makes him the right candidate to represent the 22nd Senate District, which takes in several southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.
Bruno began his career at 2001 Odyssey, the Brooklyn club made famous in the John Travolta classic “Saturday Night Fever,” which was filmed primarily in Bay Ridge.
Bruno was able to book some of the most famous disco acts of the day including the Village People, Chic, Kool & the Gang and Gloria Gaynor to perform at the club.
His AM/PM Entertainment Concepts company has scored 50 Billboard No. 1 hits. He has also produced countless events for artists such as Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
Bruno was born and raised in the borough and has lived in Bay Ridge for the last 10 years. He currently serves as president of Brooklyn’s Edmund G. Seergy Republican Club, and was the Republican nominee for borough president in 2018.
He was ultimately defeated by incumbent Borough President Eric Adams, although he did manage to win the 22nd District with 51 percent of the votes.
Bruno took the time to answer some questions for the Brooklyn Reporter.
Q: What made you decide to run for the Senate?
Bruno: As a lifelong New Yorker and business owner, I’ve seen firsthand the damage being done to our city and state. Crime is on the rise, property taxes are on the rise, government involvement in our daily lives is on the rise, and our quality of life is going down. I believe we need to put common sense back into our government. I’m running to fight for lower taxes for our residents. I’m running so the people of south Brooklyn will have a representative that will represent us all in Albany.
Q: What makes you the right candidate for this position?
Bruno: Unlike my opponent, I’ve run a business and worked in the private sector most of my life. I understand what government intrusion and overreach does to our local economies. Small business and private enterprise are the lifeblood of our economic engine. There is nothing keeping them here but good will. My opponent supported his colleagues turning out thousands of jobs in Queens from Amazon. Turning away jobs isn’t going to help us; it’s hurting us. It’s why New York State is losing people faster than any other state in the country.
Q: What are some of the things you want to change in the way things are being done today?
Bruno: We need to get serious about quality of life. My opponent has sent a clear signal: Law-abiding citizens are open season for those that will do harm. He supports the disaster that is bail reform. That bill alone is responsible for an increase in crime statewide. When criminals believe that there will be no punishment for their crimes, they will commit them again, and again, and again.
We need a representative that represents us. Right here in Bay Ridge, our local community board voted against a proposal for selected bike lanes. Our Senator overruled them. Agree or disagree, the community board represents our interests, and brazenly ignoring their vote shows me that he isn’t interested in representing us, he’s interested in representing his own beliefs.
Q: What do you bring to the table that’s missing right now?
Bruno: I’m not an ideologue. I’m a Republican, but I’m not beholden to anyone. All of our elected officials are held accountable not to the average constituent, but to the special interests that put them there. We need more independent voices in government.
Q: You’ve been successful in the business world and in the music industry. Tell me a little bit about that and how it will help you working in the Senate.
Bruno: Being a business owner gives me a unique perspective on state government. This state is choking off small business. Every day, we see a new tax, a new fee, a new imposition. New York State is making it harder and harder to make a living here, and by continuing to punish small businesses, we are driving the economic engine of our state away.
Q: What would be the first thing you would change or the first piece of legislation you would enact when elected?
Bruno: Issue number one is bail reform — we have to give judicial discretion back to judges. Following that, we need a fundamental restructure of our property tax system in New York City, starting with a two percent tax cap, which my opponent opposes.
Q: Why do you think a Republican Senate win is essential for this community and district right now?
Bruno: We need to get back to basics. And that means serving all of our constituents fairly. The only way to do that is to ensure a balanced government. This district represents homeowners, small business owners, Third Avenue, in schools, in police stations, firehouses, sanitation. We have union laborers, judges, lawyers, housekeepers, homemakers and community activists. We need someone who will represent all of them, not just those that agree with him.