BY JACOB HENRY
After spending over a decade serving constituents of District 32 in south Queens, Councilman Eric Ulrich reflected on the challenges he faced and the accomplishments he achieved throughout his time in office.
Ulrich was just 24 years old when he was elected to the seat, and next year term limits will force him from office. At the time of his victory, he was one of the few Republicans to hold office in New York City, but he took to City Hall a focus on serving everyone in the district regardless of party affiliation.
“I’ve always tried to go out of my way to serve the people that didn’t vote for me and let them know that I’m still a representative for them,” Ulrich said. “They don’t have to vote for me, but my door is always going to be open.”
A couple years after he was elected, Ulrich’s district was hit with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The similarities between that and the current COVID-19 pandemic are not lost on the councilman.
“Both were out of our control and both are going to take us years to fully recover from,” Ulrich said. “Both left people broke and feeling a sense of hopelessness, but we’re desperately doing our best to assist people and take it one day at a time.”
He said he was proud of his work on the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy, as well as his work on legislation that created the city’s Department of Veteran Services. Ulrich also mentioned his work on rezoning efforts, renovating parks and schools, and spurring economic development in commercial areas.
He also called himself “the last of a dying breed” of moderate Republicans, explaining that while he supports lowering taxes, the NYPD and limited government, he still advocates for workers’ rights, a woman’s right to choose, and marriage equality.
“I have disagreements with my party on social issues, but I’m fiscally conservative” he said. “My constituents, most of them are Democrats or independents, and they think that I’m doing a good job.”
He promised a smooth transition to whoever wins the election and takes over his seat.
“I will make sure that I hand off the district and my office in the best shape possible,” Ulrich said. “I want to make it as easy as possible for whoever takes this position to do the job, because when they succeed the people that live here will succeed and be better off.”
Ulrich’s advice for the next person in office would be to understand the diverse demographics of the district from Breezy Point to Richmond Hill, hire a staff that speaks several languages, and always make sure that “the constituents come first.”
“If you put your best self forward and you are visible, accessible and helpful, that will get you very far,” Ulrich said.
He said that he’s weighing his options about his future, but is more focused on securing unemployment insurance and PPP loans, access to food and other recovery efforts related to coronavirus.
“The constituent work continues until the day I leave office, and it’s not something we’re not going to let up on,” the Ozone Park native said. “Next to being a father, this has been the most rewarding and gratifying experience of my life.”