By Mark Hallum
As transgender activist Melissa Sklarz campaigns to challenge freshman state Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth), she looks at the diversity of her district in search of universal concerns and values.
Improved, fairer property taxes for seniors, more reliable public transportation and better health care are priorities for Sklarz in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary as she vies for the seat won by Barnwell in a major upset in 2016 of longtime state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.
The 30th Assembly District covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Woodside.
“The people I meet are excited about the campaign. I get a lot of favorable responses,” Sklarz said in an interview with the TimesLedger editorial staff. “The northern part is very urban and diverse, the southern part is more suburban with multi-generations in the same house, and so it’s a different type of campaign in different parts of the district. I feel I have the skill to navigate that.”
Sklarz has been a Woodside resident for more than 20 years and said while subways in the district are lacking, apart from the No. 7 train in the northern section, buses are a major necessity for people in the southern portion that is not being met.
“The 7 train connects so many parts of northern Queens and it seems to struggle… and now we’re going to start to see all these tunnels being closed. So what happens when the L train tunnel closes and all the traffic is now rerouted to the streets. How ready is New York City going to be?” Sklarz said. “If New York is going to continue to work at being New York, we’re going to have to worry about more than Uber and Lyft and worry more about the people who take public transportation.”
Property taxes are a major issue for seniors switching to a fixed income after retirement and Sklarz is interested in helping those residents of the district.
“It’s great to own your own home in Queens while you have a day job, but what happens is people age and all of a sudden, they have a fixed income. That house that has always been the castle for the family now begins to change as property taxes go up and the income no longer goes up,” Sklarz said. “There has to be something in place so that seniors don’t face that question of ‘how can I keep my home that my grandparents bought in the 1950s?’ There are bills out there in the Legislature and I want to be supportive of that [issue].”
The Women’s Reproductive Health Act is something Sklarz champions on the campaign trail and believes that with the “noise” coming from Washington, D.C., it is imperative for New York state to codify Roe vs. Wade into law.
Sklarz also wants to pass legislation that would put a ban on conversion therapy, which aims to turn LGBT people straight, as she sees the psychological effects as profoundly damaging for young members of the LGBT community.
Though a self-proclaimed progressive, Sklarz does not support the insurgent challenge from former “Sex and the City” star and activist Cynthia Nixon to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Instead, she is backing the governor, who is regarded as a more moderate Democrat.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall