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Queens Chronicle

QUEENS VOTES 2018 All politics is local in 33rd Assembly

Vanel, seeking second term, faces primary from civic leader Bryan

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2018 10:30 am

In a county and a country where voters have learned not to assume any election is a foregone conclusion, there will be two races in the 33rd Assembly District this year.

Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village), seeking a second term, will square off against Oster Bryan, an adjunct college professor and civic leader from Cambria Heights.

The winner on Sept. 13 — the primary is on a Thursday this year because of Rosh Hashanah and the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — will square off against Republican Lalita Etnaroo in November.

Both candidates stress the importance of delivering for the district.

“You have to talk about what you’ve accomplished in the district before you talk about what you’ve accomplished in Albany,” said Vanel, an attorney whose firm deals with things like trademarks and intellectual property. He said home ownership has been a priority.

“We’ve helped people purchase homes for the first time,” he said. “We’ve helped seniors stay in their homes. That creates generational wealth in neighborhoods. Many times people will lose their family home because they lack information or an understanding of some programs.” Very often people in the middle class cannot afford a home, he said, even in the neighborhoods where they grew up because they are working but underemployed.

He said they have pushed programs to teach people about entrepreneurship for either new businesses or sideline businesses while remaining employed in order to help.

He chairs the Assembly’s Subcommittee on the Internet and Technology, something he said has an impact on everything from schools in the district to farms in heavily Republican upstate districts.

And he said at the end of the day, those districts and the 33rd have common ground, citing, as an example, green markets that pop up in Southeast Queens every summer.

“They want their farmers to sell their produce; I want my residents to eat well ... We’re one body. When they do well, we do well.”

He is proud of a bill that would establish a group to study things like cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to determine how the state should prepare for their benefits and challenges. It has passed both houses and soon will be headed to Gov. Cuomo’s desk.

Bryan teaches at the Long Island Business Institute’s Flushing campus. He is president of the St. Albans Civic Improvement Association and also is a member of the Cambria Heights Civic Association.

He said his decision to challenge Vanel is not personal. He likened it to his decision in past elections to support Vanel when the latter ran longshot primary challenges against incumbent City Council and state Senate candidates.

“I don’t think people should run unopposed,” he said. “I believe in democracy.”

He is even more blunt than Vanel about working on the homefront.

“Adam Clayton Powell, when he was in Congress, would look at a bill and ask, ‘What’s in it for Harlem?’” Bryan said. “I am going to ask, ‘What’s in it for Southeast Queens?’”

Bryan said he also wants to be plainspoken about his intention to represent the interests of the black community.

“A lot of people imply they will stand up for the black community, but they’re afraid to come out and say it,” he said. “How can they say it in Albany if the won’t say it to us?”

Bryan takes a great deal of inspiration from a source one might not expect — Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents more than 20,000 police officers with the NYPD.

“We’re on different sides of the table [politically], but I like the way he stands up for his police officers,” Bryan said. “He’s as fierce as they come. If the other side is strong and I’m weak, the other side will always win.”

He also pointed to state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) who singlehandedly has been able to hold up things like traffic camera legislation and more government oversight of Yeshiva schools.

“He’s a one-man caucus,” Bryan said. “He’s playing chess. We need more chess players [in Southeast Queens].”

As for fundraising, Vanel listed a balance of $16,471.36 on hand in his required July filing with the state’s Board of Elections. Bryan has not raised enough money to require the paperwork.

“This is a true grassroots campaign,” he said.

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