By Patrick Donachie
Clyde Vanel, a Democratic candidate in the race to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, said he was fighting to keep a robust middle class in southeastern Queens.
If elected, Vanel would represent Assembly District 33, which includes parts of Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Queens Village, Hollis and Bellerose.
Vanel’s political career began in 2009, when he challenged then-Councilman Leroy Comrie. Vanel said this first candidacy was part of a groundswell of frustration with Council members who voted to allow Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term as mayor. He also ran against Clark in a 2012 primary and contended many of the issues facing his community were still not being properly addressed.
“I live in a neighborhood, a strong middle-class neighborhood, where my parents were able to put their money together and buy a house,” Vanel said, before contrasting his parents’ stability with the neighborhood today. “Now, that story is not as prevalent. Houses are worth half a million. Children can’t buy the house they grew up in.”
Vanel, who also works as an attorney and was previously a restaurant owner, said a mix of underemployment, unaffordability and the prevalence of foreclosures in the area were contributing to people finding it harder to buy and maintain homes in the area.
He said he would advocate for a plan called “Silicon Jamaica” to entice businesses into the downtown corridor. He said the preponderance of transit options made Jamaica a prime location for new business and he wanted to strengthen the neighborhood’s push to attract new industries.
“Right now, there’s no plan to attract that type of business. We don’t have the plan. These businesses are already going to Harlem, going to Long Island City, going to Brooklyn,” he said. “We have to get the entry-level, but we need the middle-level and the higher-level jobs. We need to ensure that our community can get good paying jobs right here.”
Vanel previously worked as a chief of staff for state Sen. James Sanders, and said if he were elected to Albany, he would hope to distinguish himself with his background in business and law. He acknowledged he would have a learning curve, but said that the support of Rev. Floyd Flake of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York and A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Megachurch in Brooklyn would give him significant backing in his pursuits.
He also spoke about the importance of preparing students in southeast Queens to be able to participate in a “global economy” and expressed hope that more students could be convinced to pursue further education and careers in the natural sciences or mathematics.
“How do you get more of our youth interested in the math and the sciences? In this day and age, our kids are competing with the world,” he said.
The Democratic primary takes place Sept. 13. Vanel’s opponents in the race are Roy Paul, Nantasha Williams, Sabine French and Bryan Block (who did not respond to requests for a profile interview from the TimesLedger).
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona