Republican Assemblymember Michael Tannousis represents the 64th Assembly District — which encompasses northern Bay Ridge and Staten Island’s eastern shore — in the state’s lower legislative chamber. The freshman lawmaker took office on Jan. 6 after defeating independent Brandon Patterson in the November general election and republican challenger Marko Kepi in the June primary.
As Brooklyn’s only Republican assemblymember, Tannousis follows in the steps of the district’s former Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who was elected to Congress in November, where she now serves as the city’s only GOP congressmember.
Tannousis, a Staten Island native, has worked as a lawyer and prosecutor for district attorneys in the Bronx and Richmond County. Brooklyn Paper caught up with him to talk legislative goals and the biggest issues he feels are facing his district.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Brooklyn Paper: What are your top priorities and what are the issues you’ll tackle in these first weeks and months?
Michael Tannousis: My top priority is public safety. The reason I ran for the seat to begin with was because I felt our public safety was being compromised. And currently, another top priority is to get the COVID vaccine to our constituents, especially seniors. It’s very important that we’re able to distribute this vaccine so we can get our lives back to normal.
BP: What are some ways you’re looking to distribute the vaccine?
MT: We have been receiving phone calls from constituents, particularly seniors needing help in signing up for the vaccine. And we’ve been cooperating with the governor’s office and with the vendors to try to get them these appointments.
BP: You come after Nicole Malliotakis, who held this seat for a long time. What lessons have you learned from her tenure and what do you think you’d want to do differently?
MT: Nicole was a common sense voice at a time when our public safety was compromised and tax payers did not feel they were receiving fair treatment from the state legislature. So I want to continue to be that common [sense] voice, and I want to also work with my colleagues across the aisle — especially in Brooklyn and in Staten Island — to ensure that we work together to bring about the best possible outcome for our community.
BP: There’s a supermajority now in the state legislature. How, as a Republican, are you going to work to get around that and get some of your legislation passed?
MT: Well, there are a lot of issues that transcend partisanship. I think that most assemblymembers that are elected care deeply about their communities, and there are a lot of issues that transcend party lines. We as assemblymembers should be able to work together no matter our party affiliation for the benefit of our constituencies.
BP: What is some bipartisan legislation that you’re thinking of?
MT: The number one issue I’m thinking of is access to COVID vaccines. I believe access to the COVID vaccine is an issue that all assemblymembers have an interest in seeing pushed, so that anyone who lives within their constituencies that would like to receive their vaccine is able to feel safer in these trying times. So no matter what party you’re in, I believe all the assemblymembers are united in this endeavor.
BP: What are some of the largest issues that have plagued your district for a while, and how do you think you might tackle them?
MT: In Bay Ridge, I believe the long-term issues that need to be worked on are transportation, especially in regards to the R train and to the bus systems, and the small businesses that have suffered tremendously from the pandemic. We have to work as a legislature to try to help these businesses get back to work.
BP: Who’s an assemblymember, past or present, that you admire, and how would you try to emulate their work?
MT: Thats a tough one…. Although I do not have a specific assemblymember in mind, I would emulate the assemblymembers who concentrate on constituent services as the hallmark of their offices. Because at the end of the day, we work for the people that live in our district. Any member who concentrated on constituent services, as Nicole Malliotakis has been as an assemblymember, that is the type of work that I would try to emulate.