BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Businessman and mayoral candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente dropped by the Queens Tribune on Monday to discuss why he—a San Diego native—has jumped into the race for New York City’s highest office.
In 2016, De La Fuente attempted to nab the Democratic nomination for president and ended up receiving more than 33,000 votes in the race. He later formed his own party—the American Delta Party.
De La Fuente is a longtime businessman who acquired automobile dealerships from the 1970s through the early 1990s and currently owns businesses and properties in the United States and several other countries.
Although he recently purchased an apartment on 45th Street in Manhattan, De La Fuente has long been a resident of San Diego.
“I’m already one of the largest landowners in San Diego,” said De La Fuente when asked why he wasn’t running for office in his hometown. “I am not an expert, but I understand power plants better than most,” he added. “I understand landfill better than most. I understand infrastructure and traffic.”
De La Fuente said that he believes the city wants a CEO to run the five boroughs and referenced former mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg.
“Nothing is working in this city,” he said. “It is mismanaged.”
De La Fuente, who is of Mexican descent, said that he believed he could bridge the gap among the 2.4 million residents of Hispanic or Latino descent living in the five boroughs.
“Maybe it takes someone from the outside looking in,” De La Fuente said.
However, De La Fuente said that although he would fight for all of the city’s residents—including Queens’ diverse population—he did not believe New York should retain its status as a sanctuary city.
“Of course not—you can’t,” he said. “Now, am I going to turn the whole city police to work with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] if a guy is a criminal, if the guy does not belong here? Of course, we’re going to turn every single criminal over to ICE.”
However, he said that he believed there was a difference between an illegal immigrant who had committed a crime and one who did not have immigration status, but was paying taxes and contributing to the city.
But De La Fuente said that he would remove the city’s sanctuary status to prevent Trump from penalizing New York for not cooperating with federal law-enforcement officials.
De La Fuente said that he is dedicated to creating more housing in the five boroughs—which he believes is the city’s “common denominator.”
“Housing is the number-one problem,” De La Fuente said. “People will leave if they can’t afford to live here. Rent is not taxable. If you are able to reduce it by 30 percent, automatically that extra income becomes spendable. I’m here through trial and error. People need to know my story and see how I solved problems. There are a lot of issues not being solved.”
De La Fuente said that he wants to create 200,000 units of new housing in the city.
“If you have enough supply at all levels, the price will come down,” he said. “If you have the majority of the current housing owned by a few families, it’s called a monopoly. You need to have product.”
As for dealing with the city’s homelessness crisis, De La Fuente said that rather than spending money on renting hotel rooms for the homeless, he would create a system that would help people become more “responsible.”
“If you put people in a hotel at $99 a night, if the city pays $6,000 per month and $72,000 per year, when will a person try to become responsible?” De La Fuente said. “He’ll be hooked on that.”
De La Fuente said that the solution is to find an area either within the five boroughs or outside New York City, such as Nassau County, and place the homeless population there.
“Right now, [the city is] throwing money into hotels to become slumlords,” he said.
Although De La Fuente agrees with Mayor Bill de Blasio that Rikers Island should be closed, he does not agree with the mayor’s plan to place smaller prisons in each borough. Instead, he said that the city should purchase 1,000 to 2,000 acres of land outside the city to create a prison campus.
Thus far, De La Fuente has raised nearly $300,000 and isn’t surprised by the support being garnered by his competitors. Queens County Republican Party Chairman Bob Turner recently announced his support for mayoral candidate Paul Massey, a move that De La Fuente said was “a foregone conclusion.”
“I have a lot up my sleeve and I’m going to be doing a lot of fund-raising throughout the state,” De La Fuente said. “If and when I get the support from the Puerto Rican people, the Dominican people, the white people or all the minorities, I will be focused on unifying the people, not dividing them. I was able to get things done [in San Diego]. I didn’t support the Republican Party. I didn’t support the Democratic Party. I supported them both. I supported the individuals.”
De La Fuente said that he believes that his ability to bring people together casts him as an opposite to de Blasio.
“De Blasio doesn’t work and he doesn’t allow anyone else to work,” De La Fuente said. “One man is not an island. I need to surround myself with good people. I’m not a prima donna. I’m not as egotistical as [Donald] Trump or as incompetent as Bill [de Blasio].”
De La Fuente also shrugged off rumors that he might throw his hat into the 2020 presidential race, but he didn’t rule out another bid in 2024.
“Right now, I am in New York,” he said. “I want to give the best of my ability to number one—qualify on the ballot; to represent all of the people,” De la Fuente said.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org