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Republican looks to unseat Assembly incumbent Clark

A Haitian immigrant who...

By Adam Kramer

Rolaine Antoine has seen her Queens Village community at its best and knows what has been lacking over the past few years. She has a plan of action, but state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) stands in her way.

A Haitian immigrant who moved to Queens Village 20 years ago from Brooklyn, Antoine has launched her campaign as a Republican candidate in an effort to unseat the longtime state assemblywoman.

“It is an honor on the highest level to be able to participate in government,” Antoine said. “It is a miracle that it exists. A lot of people dream of the opportunity, but it can never happen.”

The 38-year-old said that over the years she has been very active in her community on a local level and after working to elect Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she decided to try to use her skills in a bigger arena.

“When you look around Queens Village, you see the quality of life has gone down,” Antoine said. “I want to restore the quality of life and improve the little things in the neighborhood.”

Antoine faces an uphill battle against Clark, who has served the diverse communities of Queens Village, Cambria Heights and parts of Bellerose for the past 15 years. The assemblywoman has been a strong advocate in the fight to improve education as well as health care issues affecting southeast Queens and issues affecting the borough’s senior citizens.

During the recent redistricting process, the 33rd Assembly District was shrunk by 15,000 people because it was overpopulated. The major change to the district was the removal of the area of Murdock Avenue down to Dunkirk Street over to Liberty Avenue. Cunningham Heights — north of Hillside Avenue — was also eliminated from the district.

The married mother of a 5-year-old, Janelle, and a 13-year-old, Vanessa, Antoine is a client services associate for an investment firm in Manhattan. If elected, she plans to devote all of her time to the state Assembly, she said.

Antoine and her family did not take the traditional route emigrating from Haiti to the United States. Her father was not the first to arrive on U.S. shores and the family did not come for economic or political reasons. “They fell in love with country,” she said.

In 1967, she said, her sister was invited to spend the summer with a friend in New York. When it was time to return to Haiti, her sister told her father that he would be captivated by the country if he visited, and that she was not going back to Haiti.

“My father came to the United States, loved it and began to bring us over,” she said.

Antoine landed in Brooklyn when she was 5.

Now 33 years after coming to the United States, Antoine wants “to be the voice of the people in the community,” fight for their rights and teach them where they can go with a problem.

If elected, she said, she plans to work to improve the educational system, which is failing large numbers of children in southeast Queens. Antoine said there are great schools in the district and great teachers, but the children are failing.

“Right now I am concerned that the new system works in the children’s benefit,” she said. “It needs to be monitored and we need to make sure the teachers are prepared.”

Queens Village and the surrounding areas have a large senior citizen community that also is being overlooked, she said. Antoine plans to push for increased benefits and educating seniors as to what is provided for them in the community.

“We need to make changes in the community,” she said. “Little things need to be changed and people need to realize how to make a change in the community. Let me make a difference.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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