Tag Archive: LGBT

Jul 12 2012

They met online and changed the world

See you there.

Maybe you could too?

Queens-Politics has the honor to announce the wedding of Mr. Michael Serao and Mr. Jonathan Bench.

If you are not very careful, you can lose yourself in the dark underworld of local politics. You could study political science, and you could have the makings of an enlightened statesman, but when push comes to shove, most politics just isn’t pretty no matter how it’s described.

Sounds cynical, right? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not too shocking, but when something really exceptional happens, something that reveals our humanity, our common bond and  our love for one another – you don’t miss the chance to write about it.

My friend Michael is getting married and it’s far more newsworthy than pictures of sultry soda cans or the ineptitude at the BOE.

Allow me to explain. A successful businessman with a civic spirit, many people presumed Michael would opt for political office, but he didn’t (even if the chance presented itself). Instead, he chose a higher path that earned him the respect from neighborhoods across Queens. Michael is an activist, a humanitarian, and a strong voice in the community. Above all else, he’s a volunteer and it reflects in his philanthropy. Over the years he’s given thousands of dollars of self-made wealth anonymously to many organizations. “There was no need for public credit if your intent is to truly do good,” he said. On the weekends you will find him volunteering time to service organizations, often in a leadership capacity – yet he’s still willing to roll up his sleeves to get the job done.

Michael met Jonathan five years go. Both realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and I’m sure at some point they both knew their reception should be magical, tasteful yet delicate – a scene from Shakespeare if you will, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Gay Marriage wasn’t legal yet, and so the couple waited until the frustration began to hurt, after all, why were they denied an inalienable right the rest of us had?

In retrospect, he was sort of taken back that gay marriage was a problem for such a long time. He mentioned multiple political scandals and criminal activity that went ignored while the media focused on the brain-farts of gay marriage opponents. Civic discourse took a sharp right turn and it was very discouraging. But Michael, ever the fighter, stood up in protest. “The people’s fears were misplaced – we watched in horror as both gay marriage opponents and straight supporters embezzled money from numerous non profits and political campaigns while the pundits cried that we didn’t have the right. It made people worry about the gays but meanwhile we are the ones who donate the money.”

A valid point since the LGBT community can flood a campaign with big donations.

A year later, New York would see the Speaker of the city Council, Christine Quinn tie the knot in what was arguably one of the most politically infused wedding spectacles of all time. But something was missing from the festivities. A sprinkle of charity could have made it worth the grandeur. Being curious, I asked, “Michael, which wedding will be better. Quinn’s or yours?” He smiled and replied as if I should have known all along. ”I would say mine because as part of our favors we made a donation to a much-needed LGBT Cause, The Trevor Project – her wedding was just an election stunt for her mayoral campaign to seek support from the LGBT Community.”

One thing is certain, it will be very different from what we witnessed at Christine Quinn’s wedding. Of the 500 guests no political hacks were invited, but there will be a surprise guest and a performance. To an outsider, you will find it difficult to understand that sitting next to friends and family will be the righteous persons of civic activism – those that lead, those that volunteer, those that opt out of the public spotlight from any sort of recognition while they do God’s work here in Queens.

With fall colors, flowers and table linens from Cress Flowers, and photos by Michele Kawka, if you didn’t receive an invitation, you may have lost sight of your own humanity. Politics isn’t just about elections and showmanship, it’s about helping one another through our personal success and rationing our ambition. It’s about investing trust (and maybe a few bucks) to candidates that believe in a cause and then holding their feet to the fire. Maybe they haven’t changed the world yet, and maybe their mission is yet to be discovered, but Michael and Jonathan are already symbolic of the American dream.  We have much to learn from them.


Permanent link to this article: https://queens-politics.com/2012/07/they-met-online-and-they-changed-the-world/

Oct 18 2011

Meet Michael Serao, QP’s 2011 Man of the Year

Michael Serao is named Queens-Politics Man of the Year and for good reason.

Do you know Michael Serao? You should.


Michael Serao is the man you never heard about. He is a pillar of Queens society. Michael is not a politician, although he’s been encouraged to run on many occasions. Rather, Michael is a civic-minded citizen, a businessman, a Democrat, a friend that liberally shares his success with a profusion of charitable organizations – and yet – asks for nothing in return.

Michael was not born into wealth, he made his own. He’s the kind of guy that rose up from his bootstraps and unlike many others; Michael never forgot where he came from.

His best friend, Chrissie Candela who has known Michael for over 25 years said he’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet in your life.

“My mom was sick and she couldn’t get to the bank and Michael came to my house and opened all the accounts.”

But its not about business says Michael “It’s about friendship.”

Candela told a story of a dire moment in her life. During the torrential Flushing floods of 2006 – when her house flooded with three feet of sewage – Michael came to the rescue.

“My basement was in ankle high in shit water and I freaked out no one was home so I called Michael and he came over with cleaning equipment and Clorox.”

Antoinette Rivera of Bayside believes it’s Michael’s sense of determination that compliments the deep content of his character.

“Michael is a unique person that never turns anyone down. The odd thing is that it began at a young age. He’s a positive guy. I love him and he’s good to be around. He goes for the gusto,” she said.

I’m also proud to be a friend of his. Michael and I grew up in the same neighborhood and share a number of close friends in common. The neighborhood wasn’t an easy place to grow up. Scratch the surface and underneath the veneer of a working class neighborhood you’ll find the enduring pitfalls of chaos: drugs, gangs, and violence. It’s the type of environment that cast an iron mold of successful men. Michael is one of them.

City Council Member Dan Halloran and my friend Michael Serao, VP Quontic Bank and Treasurer of the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club at the Community Service Awards Night in the Adria Hotel.

Michael’s kindness is something I experienced first hand.   In 2011, he made it a point to check up on me when my mother was in the hospital. He was one of only people that for no other reason than being a true friend, showed the true colors of his munificence.

Michael was there for me, in my time of need. It was an act of kindness that I will never forget.

Serao is a rising star amongst political insiders, although he is adamant about never running for office.

“Running for office? Absolutely not, [but] I will support candidates I believe in and that’s it,” Michael said.

In lieu of a campaign for public office, Michael has turned to philanthropy by offering grants and community scholarships to local students.

The Serao-Bench Scholarship will be presented to the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club. It is a venture Michael hopes will make a difference in the life of young students.

“In an economy that has suffered to severely, I am blessed that my partner and I are in a position where we can help and make a difference,” Michael said.


Michael is very active in the LGBT community, in fact he is the LGBT community. Michael has served as President of the Western Queens LGBT Democratic club.  In addition to donating $50,000 of his personal finances last year, Michael has confident plans for the future. He began The Michael Serao and Jonathan Bench Foundation in which he plans to donate over $250,000 to various community groups.

Currently, Michael is the Vice-President of Quontic Bank and also a NYC Commissioner of Deeds. He transferred from JP Morgan Chase to work in a bank with strong ties to the community. Michael was fed up with corporate culture.

“I worked for corporate banks and I got tired of the nonsense, so I moved to a truly community bank,” said Michael.

Michael shares the love. He is involved in so many organizations and his compassion is recognized by so many; I had to put them in a list. Most recently he was unanimously voted onto the Board of Directors for QSAC where he received the QSAC 2011 Community Service Award:

Michael is engaged to his partner Jonathan Bench. They will be married in September at Leonards of Great Neck. Over 250 guests are expected to attend.

 Awards include:

Michael’s business acumen has been recognized throughout Queens. He is the recipient of the The Business Leadership Award from Queens Borough  President Helen Marshall  The HX Magazine Business Man of The Year, The Powahattan Democratic Club Business Leadership Award, and  2007 Man of the Year Long Island City Knights of Columbus.

Affiliations include:

  • Board Director Astoria LIC Kiwanis.
  • President of the Ditmars Merchants Association.
  • Board Member Sharing and Caring.
  • Advisory Board Member to Immaculate Conception school.
  • Chairman of the Astoria Park Relay for Life.
  • Charter member Bayside-Whitestone Lions International, Treasurer.
  • Treasurer Clinton Democratic Club.
  • Board Director for the Variety Boys and Girls Club.
  • Member of Community Board 1.
  • Vice-President of the Astoria Civic Association.
  • Former Vice-President of OUT Astoria.

For his selfless commitment to the neighborhood and community activism and working harder than most elected officials, Michael Serao is named Queens-Politics Man of the Year.

Permanent link to this article: https://queens-politics.com/2011/10/michael-serao-man-of-the-year/

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