Republican primary candidate Fernando Mateo, who is running in the upcoming New York City mayoral election, discussed his career, his views, and why he would make a successful mayor, while blasting Democrats for having “destroyed” the City That Never Sleeps.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Friday, Mateo, who describes himself as “a very passionate person” that will bring his passion to City Hall, began by recalling his past, starting from his parents’ immigration to the U.S. in 1950 and his later adoption by a Jewish family at the age of 14.
“They were my role models. They were my everything,” he said. “They were the ones that took me out of my hood and taught me the other side of the coin.”
Attributing his values to his adoptive family, Mateo stated they were a chief influence.
“They taught me the values of hard work,” he said. “The values of believing in yourself, of integrity, and I am who I am today because of the Waxman family.”
Having been “basically nurtured” by the Jewish community, as well as taught to “survive” and “succeed,” Mateo stated that he would “never forget” what he was given.
“I am proud to say that the Jewish community is a community that I owe who I am today,” he said.
After marrying at 17 and starting his first business, Mateo described the hard work it took to create one of the most successful companies in New York City.
“Over the course of the years, I became very successful, economically solvent,” he said, “and I went back to my community and created a program at Rikers Island [correctional facility] that taught, trained, and employed first-time non-violent offenders.”
Mateo would go on to build a school at Rikers Island called the Mateo Institute of Training.
“There [at the school] we were able to teach plumbing, carpentry, electric, telecommunications, welding, carpet laying, and many different skills,” he said. “And these kids had a choice of coming back out to the streets and doing whatever they were doing prior, or basically joining a union and working hard for a living — and most of them chose to do that.”
“It was a program that was very successful,” he added. “So successful, I received the Points of Light Award from President [George H.W.] Bush.”
The program — which Mateo was asked to take to federal jails nationwide — appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as well as People magazine, the New York Times and New York Magazine.
Later, Mateo started a disarmament program in New York City.
“In 1993, I started a program called ‘Toys for Guns,’” he said, describing it as the city’s “best disarmament program ever.”
“We got thousands of guns off the city streets and we made our city a lot safer, a lot better, and a lot more stable than what it was,” he added.
In 1999, Mateo helped form the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, and in 2002, the Bodegas Association of America, which “saved thousands of lives,” Mateo said, adding that it was “the beginning of making things much safer.”
After two weeks in 1999 when 12 taxi drivers were killed, Mateo said he “met with Mayor Giuliani and with Governor Pataki and with the police Commissioner” in order to put together “laws and policies and punishment and everything that went along with saving lives and punishing those that were committing the crimes.”
In addition, “Every camera and every partition you see in a taxi today, I am responsible for that — and I got the city to pay for it — and they saved thousands of lives over the last three decades.”
“So for the last 30 years, this ‘urban Republican,’ has served the Democratic community more than any Democrat in the Democratic community,” he said.
Asked about medallions that were sold to city taxi drivers, which lost much of their value after the city permitted competition from ride-share services to flood the market, Mateo expressed disappointment while promising he would rectify the matter.
“The city took yellow taxi medallion owners for a ride,” he said. “They robbed them. They took their money and ran, and as mayor, I will give these people back their money.”
“I will make sure that we pay them the difference between what they paid [at the time] and what the medallions are [currently] worth because it wasn’t right what the city did,” he added. “The city owns these pieces of tin and they actually ripped off the poorest of the poorest, and it’s unacceptable to me.”
When asked why he decided to run for mayor, Mateo said he hadn’t many options.
“I was faced with a choice: leave New York or run for mayor,” he said.
Asked why he’d make a good mayor, Mateo highlights his suitability above all else.
“When I ask every candidate that’s running for mayor, or if you put them all in a blender and you pour them out, they haven’t done ten percent of what Fernando Mateo, the ‘urban Republican,’ has done for the city of New York.”
Mateo also described his ambition of being the first immigrant mayor.
“As a Hispanic immigrant to New York City, I will count on the 2.5 million Hispanics that live here in New York,” he said. “I will work hard for their vote and I will work hard for every immigrant community because I will be the first immigrant mayor.”
With upcoming Republican primaries in June, Mateo was asked to describe his message to voters and why they should choose him over his primary competitor, Curtis Sliwa, to represent the Republican Party.
“Curtis Sliwa has been a compulsive serial liar his entire career,” he said, “and all you need to do is Google his lies; all you need to do is see how Curtis Sliwa is not a truthful person.”
Mateo described Sliwa as one who “never worked in the private sector, other than being a radio personality.”
“He’s not a Republican,” Mateo said. “He has never been a Republican.”
“He voted and lobbied against Donald Trump. He lobbied against the only senator we ever had with some kind of power in Albany, which was Marty Golden, making sure that Golden did not win reelection in Brooklyn,” he added.
Questioning just how Sliwa can “consider himself a Republican,” Mateo stated that Sliwa is unreliable.
“He belongs to every party,” he said, “and when I asked him whether he’s a Democrat or Republican, he answered, ‘I just became a Republican last year.’”
“So how do you trust a guy like that?” Mateo asked. “How can the Republican Party or the Republican voters even consider Curtis Sliwa?”
Mateo noted that he is the Republican “candidate of choice” who was endorsed by “Manhattan, Bronx and Queens GOP.”
“I am the candidate of choice; I am the candidate with experience,” he said. “Let’s not take [Sliwa] seriously because he’s not. He’s a joke.
Safety and policing
He also described public safety as his top priority.
“I will make sure my priorities are making our streets safe,” he stated. “Public safety to me is the first and most important agenda of the day because without public safety, there is no city.”
On police, Mateo said he would “make sure that our police officers are respected,” adding that he will also “make sure that they respect.”
“I will make sure that we put thousands more police officers out on the streets and in the city subway system so that we’re able to let people know that it’s safe to come back into New York,” he said.
“We need to get people to go back into their offices,” he added. “They’re not going to do that if our public transportation is not a safe transportation system.”
Asked about an increase in antisemitism recently, Mateo expressed support for zero tolerance.
“It’s unacceptable to have hate crimes against anyone,” he said. “It’s unacceptable for our city to be so unsafe, and it’s unacceptable that the criminals have more rights than the victims.”
Mateo also said he would fight any antisemites.
“I would fight against any antisemite,” he said. “I’ve been to Israel. I have seen what goes on in Israel. I met with then-President Shimon Peres. I know the suffering and the pain that the Jews have been through since the Holocaust.”
“It’s unacceptable for anyone to add insult to injury to the Jewish community, and I will not tolerate it, period,” he added.
Business and economy
Discussing the economy, Mateo stated, “Our economy is something we need to bring back along with our small businesses, which are the backbone of our city. It’s the biggest employment opportunity center in all of New York.”
Describing himself as “a small business person” and having “employed thousands of New York City residents,” Mateo believes that “every city agency works against the small businesses.”
“Our government is designed to not help small businesses, rather put small businesses out of business,” he said.
“I will make sure I create tax cuts,” he continued. “I will make sure I get tax incentives to any small business that comes back to New York. Whether it’s a restaurant, a bar, a nightclub, a lounge, it doesn’t matter.”
“If you’re a small business, we want you to come back, we want you to reinvest in New York because it’s the only way we’re going to bring our economy back,” he added.
Turning to other mayoral candidates, Mateo claimed their inexperience leaves them unfit for the role.
“None of these candidates running for mayor has ever owned a small business, in fact, most of them have never worked in the private sector, so they don’t understand what it is to meet payroll,” he said. “They don’t understand what it means to pay your phone bill, a light bill, to pay rent. It’s very difficult for them to understand what small businesses go through because they’ve never been involved in small businesses. And that’s what I will do and I can do it better than any other candidate running for mayor.”
Mateo also seeks to expand opportunities to the young.
“I will make sure that our teenagers, 14 to 18 years old, get the same opportunity that I got as a kid,” he said. “I will give them a life-transforming opportunity by getting them all-year-round part-time jobs in small businesses, the way I was taught.”
Repairing the “damage” caused by Democrats
Mateo says he seeks to restore the city to what it was years ago.
“I will make sure that I welcome back the rich, the philanthropists, the foundations,” he said, “to come back to New York and make our city what it used to be seven years ago.”
“City agencies have destroyed the fabric of any person wanting to invest in New York,” he added.
He then placed the blame of New York City’s “damage” on Democrats.
“It wasn’t the pandemic that created all this damage,” he said. “The pandemic had a role, but the biggest role — the mayor of New York City played.”
“Mayor Bill de Blasio ruined our city,” he said. “Democrats have never done anything to make our city better.”
Mateo described “the best 20 years” that the city ever had as those when former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and [Mike] Bloomberg presided.
“They said they could never win as Republicans and they did, and they did a phenomenal job,” he said.
Looking at the last decade, Mateo highlighted many former disgraced Democrats that held high offices in New York City, including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Speaker of the State Assembly Sheldon Silver, and current Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, expressing bewilderment that New York City residents would still desire a Democrat mayor.
“Why would you want a Democrat for another eight years to be the mayor of New York?” he asked.
“What will propel people to vote for a Democrat when there’s a qualified urban Republican in the mix like me that can make this city a better, stronger city?” he asked. “With great law enforcement, with great public safety, and with an economy and an engine for our economy, unlike anybody.”
“That’s why a Democrat will not win the mayorship of New York City,” he added. “We’re tired of them. We’ve had enough. Democrats destroyed our city. Look at the garbage, look at the graffiti, look at the looters, the vandalism, the attacks on seniors. Look at our arts and cultural centers — they’re all closed.”
Taking all this into account, Mateo claimed, “That’s why I would be the best mayor that this city has ever had and, more so, I will be the most qualified mayor for anyone to vote for in this coming election.”
Asked about running as a Republican in New York City, with Democrats having a major voter registration advantage, Mateo said, “it’s only rhetoric.”
“When people say that a Republican can’t be the next mayor of New York, or will not win, that is socialist rhetoric,” he added. “I don’t believe that.”
He then expressed his confidence in victory.
“I believe that I stand the strongest chance of reaching City Hall and being the next mayor, and I will prove it,” he said. “I will make sure that everyone understands what my thinking is and that’s why we will win.”
Mateo then spoke of his grand plans.
“We will reopen this city and make the city a better city than it’s ever been,” he said. “We’ll bring our theater district back; we’ll bring jobs back; we’ll bring businesses back.”
“I will reform Rikers Island and make sure that it becomes a rehabilitation center, not a correctional facility, so that we can give opportunities to those that have made mistakes,” he said.
“And that’s what we’re going to do,” he added. “That’s what I’m going to do as mayor.”
Mayor de Blasio donations
Asked about having previously raised funds for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign, Mateo described it as mere business-associated philanthropy.
“I’m a businessman,” he said. “I’ve donated to everyone just like Donald Trump donated to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. I’ve been a donor to many people just like John Cassimatis donated $50,000 to de Blasio.”
“We’re business people,” he added.
However, Mateo also states that he “never donated a dime” of his money and never endorsed de Blasio either.
“He asked me to raise a few dollars for him and I did like I would have done for any mayor that’s at City Hall,” he said. “But that’s basically all he’s got to say about me. There’s nothing else that’s credible.”
With New York City at a major inflection point, Mateo concluded that his experience is unparalleled among mayoral candidates.
“I am the one with the most experience, in every different aspect of life in New York City,” he said. “I am the person that really fits the mold of what New York City needs right now.”
Ultimately, Mateo says, New York residents are what matter.
“If you ask any New Yorker what do they need and you show them my plan, I am the sole person, I am the guide, to create the change and make the changes,” he said.
“And I’m the one that hasn’t accepted any endorsements from any organizations. Because I don’t want to be indebted to anyone other than to the people.”
“The only endorsement I want is an endorsement from New Yorkers,” he concludes.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.