Queens Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, a champion of education, dies at 76

Photo via Facebook/Assemblywoman Barbara Clark

Updated 3:06 p.m.

One of Queens’ longest serving lawmakers, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, died on Monday night.

The 76-year-old Clark was first elected to the Assembly in 1986, representing the neighborhoods of Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Hollis and St. Albans, and was the Assembly’s deputy majority whip at the time of her passing. Details about her death were not immediately available; QNS reached out to her office and is awaiting a response.

Clark was hailed as a champion of public education during her 30 years in public service. She worked to convert the former Andrew Jackson High School into the Campus Magnet Complex, featuring four smaller high schools focused on specific fields such as mathematics, technology and law.

The assemblywoman was also a supporter of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s lawsuit against New York State, a 14-year legal battle that ultimately secured $5.5 billion in additional funds for New York City public schools. Clark was also the author of a bill that mandated that all children in New York State attend school by the age of 6.

Additionally, Clark supported legislative efforts to combat predatory lending as well as traffic laws to increase pedestrian safety and helped steer funding toward the creation of Queens’ first cancer treatment center at Queens Hospital. She received numerous statewide and national awards for her contributions, such as the Pacesetter Award from the Women Legislators’ Lobby/Women’s Action for New Directions.

Clark was also recognized as a great mentor to younger public servants as well as high school and college interns who worked out of her offices.

After news of her passing broke, local elected officials took to Twitter to offer their condolences.

In email statements, state Senator Leroy Comrie mourned Clark as “a wonderful public servant, mentor and friend” whose “industrious style and fierce advocacy will truly be missed in Albany and throughout southeast Queens.” State Senator James Sanders added that Clark was “a dedicated leader and legislator” and ” a kind, well-respected member of the community.” State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also remembered clark as a “loyal friend to so many and represented everything that is good in a public official.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo remembered Clark as “a great public servant” and “a true legend of Queens – a proud leader who worked tirelessly to support her community and better the lives of those around her.” Mayor Bill de Blasio credited Clark’s work to ensure “that all students had access to quality education  – values that we uphold in our city and that are vital for our youth and communities as a whole.”

Assemblyman David Weprin, who sat next to Clark in the Assembly Chamber, said he was “fortunate to be the recipient of her advice and guidance on a regular basis” and that her passing is “a great loss to the Assembly institution.” City Councilman I. Daneek Miller added that the late Assemblywoman was a “staunch advocate for equity in funding for health and education” and “a fighter for the communities she represented with dedication and compassion.”

A native of West Virginia, she is survived by her husband, Thomas, four children and two granddaughters. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Clark’s death leaves her Assembly seat vacant. Governor Andrew Cuomo may call a special election to fill it; all Assembly seats will be contested in the November general election.