A former state assistant attorney general has joined the race to replace Councilman I. Daneek Miller to represent southeast Queens.
Jason Clark officially launched his campaign on Monday, Jan. 25, for the District 27 seat, which covers Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.
Clark said decided to run for City Council so he can make sure that there is someone in office who is familiar with the issues that need to be addressed within his district and has “innovative ideas” on how to combat them. Southeast Queens was among the areas that was hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and Clark wants to make sure that District 27 isn’t left behind in the recovery efforts.
“When we start looking at the next budget, I want to make sure that this community receives the resources we deserve,” Clark said. “The people in this particular community, what they have had to go through, is just as much and more than many other folks.”
He added that the foundation for the district’s recovery is supporting the essential workers within the community. Clark credits them for keeping the city afloat throughout the public health crisis and wants to ensure they have a voice at City Hall when it comes to allocating funding for the next city budget.
“When people start looking at the budget, and deciding, ‘well, where’s a place to cut?’ that is going to be the transit workers and the city workers who live in this district,” Clark said. “Everyones been saying how wonderful it is that we’ve been behind our frontline workers. Just too often people have a very short memory and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
At the Attorney General’s office, Clark prosecuted “notarios,” or individuals who pose as lawyers in order to take advantage of immigrants seeking help with the naturalization process. He also helped shut down online businesses selling synthetic drugs within his community and hosted a legal training program for lawyers seeking to provide pro bono representation to immigrant children.
His affinity for advocating for those without a voice ties into how much he values community, something he says he learned from his parents. Clark’s mother decided to become an urban planner in order to help people revitalize the neighborhoods they lived in. His father, a doctor, worked to help people of color live longer after realizing that heart disease was the leading cause of death among African Americans.
Clark, who was born and raised in Queens, says he was denied access to an advanced curriculum program when he was a child due to his race.This earl encounter with inequality and the outpouring of community support had a massive impact on him and inspired him to pursue a career where he could help other people the way his community helped him get into that program.
“I was young, but it changed my life,” Clark said. “It put me on a pathway where I was able to get into a top high school and eventually achieve my dream of becoming a public interest attorney at the New York State Attorney General’s office.”
Clark is a fierce advocate for equitable access to education, which is why he founded DREAMChasers, a free tutoring and mentorship program that helps prepare students for the city’s Specialized High School test. Founded in 2018, the program has helped students get into several specialized schools, including Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School and Beacon High School.
Clark served on Attorney General Letitia James’ Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, where he educated people about their housing rights. As a city councilman, he wants to continue that work and fight to impose stronger protections for homeowners against redlining, predatory lending, and deed theft.
“It’s always when people are at their most vulnerable that you start to see scam artists who try to take advantage of our seniors or try to give folks predatory lending,” he said.
Clark added he is prepared to fight for southeast Queens and advocate for increased access to public transportation, providing mental health resources for healthcare professionals dealing with the long-term effects of the pandemic, and raising the minimum number of training hours for members of the NYPD. Clark says he is “incredibly passionate” about his community and wants to do all he can for southeast Queens residents.
“It’s just too often that communities like ours are the ones that end up getting the short stick,” he said. “I refuse to believe that that’s just what has to happen.”