John Brown Smokehouse owner Josh Bowen launches campaign for state Senate

John Brown Smokehouse Josh Bowen runs for State Senate
After speaking at the Community Church of Astoria in Long Island City Sunday, Dutch Kills resident Josh Bowen made the “difficult decision” to run for State Senate in the new 59th District. (Courtesy of Josh Bowen)

Dutch Kills resident and restaurateur Josh Bowen has grown exasperated with elected leaders in western Queens over the years he’s decided to run for office himself.

Bowen, the owner of John Brown Smokehouse, announced Thursday he will run for state Senate as an Independent candidate in the newly drawn District 59.

“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, supporting many of our local representatives, but they have failed to be serious about addressing the crime, homelessness and failing economy in our community,” Bowen said. “The radical move toward socialism has left me feeling further and further detached from the party I grew up with and have fought in the past to support.”

Bowen became an outspoken critic of elected officials after Amazon walked away from its plan to build an HQ2 campus on Anable Basin in Long Island City on Valentine’s Day 2019. He backed up his words by flying to Seattle to try and convince Amazon leadership to reverse course and return, along with their plan to create 25,000 jobs along the Anable Basin.

“As a business owner and community leader, I am a serious problem solver,” Bowen said. “I will fight for the issues we all care most about, and I will not cave in or be bought off by any special interest. I am not a politician; this is a very new concept to me. I only know how to fight for what I believe.”

John Brown Smokehouse Josh Bowen runs for State Senate
Courtesy of Josh Bowen

Bowen said he would work to restore the NYPD “to their place as the greatest police force in the world,” and work to reverse the “failed bail reform” replacing it with a common-sense program for real criminal justice reform. He would fight to replace the Department of Homeless Services with a private and accountable entity that “actually gets homeless individuals off the streets and gets them the care or assistance they really need.”

He vowed to fight institutional racism in NYCHA, expand school choice, go after the pharma executives responsible for the opioid crisis and give struggling businesses and small landlords a one-year tax holiday.

As a restaurant owner impacted by the pandemic, Bowen also knows how the artist community was hammered during the last two years.

“We will establish a public-private partnership dedicated to supporting local artists along with declaring a one-year celebration of local artists,” Bowen said. “The partnership will use public funds, private donations and forfeited lobbying donations to hold performances in a wide variety of the arts every weekend for a year, paying the artists for their performances. New York is not New York without art.”

Astoria resident Nomiki Konst, who came up short in a 2019 campaign for Public Advocate, announced Wednesday on “The Majority Report” that she, too, would run for Senate in District 59. Her decision was met with derision from progressives who are supporting Kristen Gonzalez, who has racked up endorsements from the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, Make the Road Action and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Critics say Konst entering the race will split the progressive vote against former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who ran a close second to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and is seeking to represent District 59, which includes the neighborhoods of Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Kips Bay, StuyTown, Gramercy, Williamsburg and Murray Hill.

Bowen no longer cares about intra-party fratricide.

“I just want my kid to grow up safe in the greatest city in the world and our current leadership on both sides are ruining that hope,” Bowen said. “We deserve a city that is thriving and moving forward — like we had not too long ago. While not perfect, we were united and fighting together for a better future. Now we are just barely functioning. When united, there is no city greater or stronger than NYC, when divided we have chaos. Unity is the most powerful force on earth. And I will do everything possible to unleash that power and return our city to greatness.”