As the British anarcho-communist punk band Chumbawamba so famously put it, you could get knocked down, but you also "get up again."
In the case of Staten Island's Sam Pirozzolo, who was brought low in 2016 when a mysterious fire destroyed his beloved giant Trump sculpture on his front lawn, he has gotten up again—all the way to the state legislature.
Pirozzolo won a state assembly seat last night by 3,300 votes, defeating Democrat Vincent Argenziano in a race where over 35,000 people voted. Pirozzolo ran on a pro-cop and pro-pets agenda—a mix that is seemingly popular out on Staten Island—that promoted, with equal measure, increased police funding and the abolition of kill shelters for animals.
But Pirozzolo, an optician by trade, might be most famous for his provocative use of lawn art. In the summer of 2016, Pirozzolo had a giant statue shaped like the letter T (for "Trump," but also "Truth," Pirozzolo told me) on his front lawn, made by the conservative Staten Island artist Scott LoBaido. One morning in early August of that year, Pirozzolo says he awoke to find the sculpture ablaze. Pirozzolo told me at the time that he suspected arson, but no arrests were ever made. Extremely quickly, Pirozzolo and LoBaido replaced the giant T with an even bigger T, and Pirozzolo said Trump even called him to offer support.
And yet, on his campaign website this year, there was no mention of his giant statue saga.
When Pirozzolo replaced his giant, 12-foot-tall T with an extremely giant, 16-foot-tall T in 2016, an unknown person he described as a "liberal coward" called the City's Department of Buildings to complain about the new, even bigger T, as it broke the City’s regulation on the size of illuminated lawn ornaments. Pirozzolo was quickly fined $2,400 by the DOB for his new T, which led Pirozzolo to launch a GoFundMe, with the goal of raising $10,000 to fight the ticket.
"New York City and Mayor deBlasio [sic] are hungry and they want their money now. This is what Donald Trump meant when he said the system is crooked, the system is rigged," Pirozzolo wrote while promoting his fundraiser.
He also admitted that the $10,000 goal was not only to fight the ticket, but to continue upping the lawn sign ante.
"Let me be clear, some of the money raised will go to promote and build my next statue which may or may not resemble a giant middle finger," Pirozzolo wrote.
But Pirozzolo's protestations were all for naught. "The fine was paid and I didn't have representation to go to civil court," he wrote in an update, after raising just $2,415 of his goal.
But who was the real winner here? Was it Bill de Blasio's truth-hating Department of Buildings? Or the now Albany-bound Sam Pirozzolo?
Hell Gate reached out to Pirozzolo to see how he felt after winning his race, and if the cops ever found any leads on the sign-burner. He hasn't yet responded.
Pirozzolo made good on his promise, and he got up again, erecting a giant "Let's Go Brandon" sign last year. Now that freedom-loving energy is coming from one of our newest legislators. Maybe he'll revisit the state's codes for lawn signs, and bring true freedom to the suffocating administrative regime limiting the true political potential of our front lawns. Right now, Pirozzolo probably feels as if the DOB is, in Chumbawama's words, "never going to bring [him] down."