Vanel makes Assembly run

Cambria Heights resident Clyde Vanel is challenging Assemblywoman Barbara Clark for her 33rd District seat. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Cambria Heights resident Clyde Vanel is putting his experience as a small business owner at the forefront of his campaign to unseat 13-term incumbent state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), but he is still undecided on the issues of increasing the minimum wage and charter schools supported by his opponent..

Vanel, 38, grew up in Cambria Heights and attended St. John’s Prep in Astoria before making his way to SUNY Farmingdale and eventually graduating with a law degree from Boston University. He said that as an intellectual property lawyer, part of his job was helping open restaurant franchises across the country, which gave him the idea to start his own restaurant on the Lower East Side.

That experience, he said, made him realize how much bureaucratic red tape there is hindering small business owners.

“New York City and state make it very difficult for a small business owner to run and operate a business,” he said.

Regulations such as those requiring limited liability corporations to publish legal notices and heavy-handed enforcement policies, Vanel said, make it costly to start up a business and drive entrepreneurs to neighboring states.

Vanel said he would enact pro-business policies to grow companies both big and small.

“Upwards of 70 percent of the people work outside the [33rd Assembly] district,” he said. “Some have been laid off because their jobs got relocated. We have to have policies to attract and keep employers.”

Vanel said he had not taken a stance on raising the minimum wage, fearing it may have a detrimental effect on small businesses.

“I’ve not decided where I fall on that,” he said.

Clark voted earlier this year to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

The two candidates also differ on education. Clark has said she supports charter schools and was a strong advocate of breaking up Cambria Heights’ former Andrew Jackson High School into four smaller schools at the Campus Magnet Education Complex, at 207-01 116th Ave.

Vanel, who mentors students at the Eagle Academy for Young Men, which will open this year at the former home of the Allen Christian School in St. Albans, said he had not taken a stance on charter schools and was opposed to the closure of Andrew Jackson HS.

“For an 18-year-old kid, [high school] is their most prized institution,” he said. “Now people don’t have a connection to these four different smaller schools. I think it’s a problem.”

On the topic of crime, Vanel said he thought the borough’s recent gun buyback was a good idea, but that it did not get to the root of the problem. A better solution, he said, would be to grow jobs and focus on youth programs to deter people from ever becoming criminals.

“Because I believe — and this is just my opinion — I don’t believe in putting Band-Aids on huge gaping wounds,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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