By Patrick Donachie
Sabine French’s role as a community advocate for southeastern Queens has extended into the political arena, and she is one of five candidates running to fill the seat left vacant by the death of state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark.
“I was able to tap into my passion,” she said about the campaign. “I don’t consider myself just a candidate, but a neighbor. Sometimes, someone gets into office and they’re removed. I’m here, and I’m staying here.”
Clark died in February. She was the representative for Assembly District 33, which includes parts of Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Queens Village, Hollis and Bellerose.
French grew up in Cambria Heights, and is a third-generation resident of the area. She has been a member of the St. Albans and Cambria Heights civic associations, and is also on the PTA board of Public School 176, where her son attends school.
In an interview, French stressed the need to remain a fixture in the community, and said elected officials needed to bring a ‘customer service’ model to assisting their constituents. She signaled concerns about education and the state of schools in the district as an important challenge to face. French expressed concern that charter schools were sapping area public schools of necessary funding.
“Public schools should be the top priority, and I do not feel right now that they’re the top priority in District 29,” she said, referring to the school district that encompasses Hollis and Queens Village. She also expressed caution about Common Core standards and assessments. “We have well-qualified and educated teachers. Of course, there should be a standard, but that teacher is familiar with her class and has her style.”
French said she would commit to supporting outreach into the community to educate them about their rights in regards to foreclosures. Many homeowners had been victims of predatory lending, and when they receive a modification on their mortgage it would often include debt that had been deemed to be due to predatory lending practices.
“Often, they owe more than the home is worth,” she said, also noting that vacant homes owned by the banks often stayed vacant. Some of these houses eventually became squatter homes, sometimes used as areas for drug use and prostitution.
Above all, French asserted her role as an advocate for her community made her best equipped to represent the area in Albany.
“Many of the other candidates are saying they have ties to the community, but I feel confident in saying that I am ever present in the district and outside of the district. My record speaks for itself in terms of having an interest in the community,” she said. “This is my home.”
The Democratic primary for the 33rd Assembly District race will be held Sept. 13.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona