Hoping to win the office he once helped Alessandra Biaggi campaign for, Christian Amato is the latest entry into a growing field for the Bronx’s open state Senate seat.
Amato, 34, announced his candidacy this week, ending weeks of speculation that he would join the Democratic primary for the 36th Senate District.
A native of the Pelham Parkway section, the dyed-in-the-wool Progressive has spent several years working behind the scenes in politics, first helping to launch Biaggi’s Senate campaign in 2018 when she toppled entrenched politico, state Sen. Jeff Klein, then joining her legislative team as its deputy chief of staff and district director. Biaggi is now running for Congress.
“Alessandra has been an incredible legislator … I believe I’m the best equipped candidate out of everyone in the race to continue the work,” he said. “One of my priorities is providing excellent and consistent constituency services.”
The district – previously the 34th District – stretches from Riverdale to City Island and parts of Westchester.
This election cycle Progressives will face an electorate with safety concerns amid a controversial bail reform law that critics argue has exacerbated recent waves of gun violence and overall crime. Although supportive of the reform, Amato said he’d be willing to explore expanding judicial discretion on violent crimes.
“After hearing the concerns of the community, I do feel there is room for flexibility,” he said. “I come with a progressive vision … with the understanding that our community is represented with a diverse set of opinions that may not always be centered on political party ideology.”
Amato, who has served on Community Board 11 for three years, will campaign on several progressive policies, including more affordable and supportive housing. He’s an advocate of the “Good Cause” eviction legislation to prevent landlords from evicting tenants, and is supportive of social housing that would allow tenants to collectively purchase and run their own buildings – a sale just took place in Port Morris where tenants purchased the building from their landlord and are in the midst of turning the building into a co-op. A similar progressive housing bill also sits in the state Senate.
The district also includes the most parkland of any district in NYC, which Amato believes presents “a lot of opportunity.”
“We have to protect that,” he said. “We saw how valuable public space became during the pandemic for mental health.”
The son of Italian immigrants, Amato began his career in theater directing and producing Broadway shows, including “Rocky” and “The Color Purple,” before transitioning to marketing. In 2o20, he founded his own consulting firm Consense Strategies where he worked on political campaigns for City Council candidates Amanda Farías and Elisa Crespo. But the business also ventured beyond politics, Amato said, serving clients in the real estate and entertainment industries – he launched a fitness app last year.
“I’ve been focused on diversifying beyond politics,” he said. “Really interested in working with young small businesses, trying to elevate new forms of business.”
Yet, when Biaggi vacated her seat last month, Amato was approached by community leaders across the district encouraging him to run for the seat, he said. “I felt that there was too much support to ignore,” he told the Bronx Times.
His candidacy now follows several others who’ve recently formalized runs, including attorney Miguelina Camilo, considered the presumptive frontrunner by pundits.
But Amato doesn’t see himself as an underdog – just the opposite, in fact.
He’s banking on relationships built over years working within the district, having started a mutual aid network, helping to deliver food and distributing masks and personal protective equipment to residents during the pandemic.
“I know in terms of community experience and on the ground knowledge, I believe I have the strongest position in this campaign,” he said. I’ve been working in this community for years. It’s been my home my entire life.”
The primary is scheduled for June 28.
Reach Christian Falcone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.