Woodside native vies for state assembly seat

By Gabriel Rom

Brian Barnwell has a story to tell.

The 29-year-old Woodside native, who will be challenging Margaret Markey, (D-Maspeth) who was first elected in 1998, for her Assembly seat next year, was walking around Woodside when he noticed graffiti scrawled across a playground.

He lodged complaints and waited months to no avail, so he organized his own cleanup. A week later, his work had been painted over by the city because he had used the wrong color paint. Soon after he decided to run for public office. In short, Barnwell says, he understands bureaucracy, he understands city inefficiency, and he wants to change it.

Barnwell, a former lawyer and current communications director for City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), explains that his drive for public office is simple.

“I always have wanted to help people, and my background as a lawyer makes me understand this city,” he said.

Barnwell, who will be running as a Democrat, describes a three-pronged policy approach that aims to lower taxes, reform recent education bills, and make housing more affordable. What brings these policies together, he says, is a concerted effort to help a struggling middle class make ends meet.

“I see the middle class continuously being crushed. Who knows how long they can stand the burdens that they’re facing,”he said. “Things need to change. What’s the difference between five years and 10 years? We need help now We need new voices.”

Among his specific proposals, Barnwell wants to lower taxes on businesses while increasing the minimum wage, reform the way teachers are evaluated, lower student-to-teacher ratios in schools, end vacancy decontrol, and raise the fines for landlords who abuse tenants.

Barnwell’s sense of urgency comes, in part, from the two years he has spent working as the director of special events for Constantinides.

“Working there was a constant education. I started hearing the same complaints from a wide variety of people and I wanted to do something.”

Barnwell plans to stay at Constantinides’ office until September, when his campaign will hit full gear.

Barnwell will hold his first fund-raiser Aug 12, 7 p.m., at The Brewery in Woodside.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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