Clyde Vanel, 35, the lawyer from Cambria Heights, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) in last year’s Democratic primary, is considering challenging Assemblywoman Barbara Clark this November.
“I want to hear what the community thinks and if they feel there is a lack of representation with the budget still not figured out and the state of our community,” Vanel said during an exclusive interview with the Queens Chronicle on Tuesday. “People need to be more involved in choosing their leadership.”
To help gauge the feelings of area residents, Vanel has been visiting constituents’ homes and holding a series of meetings at his former campaign office in St. Albans. He says he has already heard people commenting that they are not happy with the job being done by Clark.
“Not much has improved with respect to education and resources and things she brings into the community,” Vanel said. “When the city was threatening to close schools, she wasn’t around.”
Voters are also questioning her member items, Vanel said. In March, the New York Post reported that since 1996, Clark has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to a charity she helped found called the Community Care Development Project, which is located just three doors away from her Queens Village office. The group is supposed to help residents “avoid the bureaucratic obstacles which prevent them receiving immediate services,” the Post article said.
Clark gave at least $481,500 in member-item money to CCDP from 2006 to 2009, with $209,500 going to public schools, churches and Little Leagues among other groups, but the remaining amount — more than half — was used for salaries and office expenses, according to the Post.
Clark told the newspaper she wasn’t involved in CCDP’s day-to-day operations, blaming the charity’s disorganized financial records on a former accountant.
Vanel claimed constituents are also angry that Clark had disappeared from the political scene for some time, but reappeared to support Mayor Mike Bloomberg during his re-election bid last November, despite most area residents favoring term limits.
While Vanel understands that it is hard to beat an incumbent, he believes he still has a chance, if he decides to run. “It’s difficult, but not impossible,” he said. “At the end of the day the incumbent doesn’t own the seat. The seat belongs to the community.”
Vanel says that he will make a decision by early next week, in order to be able to begin collecting signatures by the official start date of June 8.
Clark describes herself as a “public servant” and has represented the 33rd Assembly district, which includes the communities of Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Queens Village, St. Albans, and part of Floral Park, for over 20 years.
She has dedicated much of her time turning good education policies into solid legislation, according to her biography on the Assembly’s website. For example, based on the recommendations of the New York State Board of Regents, she authored a bill requiring children to attend school full-time at the age of six.
Clark also advocated for the creation of small schools including the conversion of the large, struggling Andrew Jackson High School into Campus Magnet, which houses four different themed smaller high schools.
She is a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus as well as a member of three Assembly committees — Children and Families; Education; Labor; and Libraries and Education Technology.
Clark did not return calls by press time.