Vanel Sworn in as Assembly Member for District 33

On Sunday, January 22, Assembly Member Clyde Vanel (Democrat) held his inauguration ceremony at York College. 

Inaugurations give a glimpse of how that elected will govern, interact with his colleagues and deal with constituents.  What Assembly Member Vanel’s inauguration showed was his immigrant heritage, his engagement and large constituent following, his professional background and the respect his colleagues have for his perseverance at attaining the seat including those from a Democratic party that routinely did not back his candidacies. 

The venue was packed to the rafters.  There was a constant stream of getting more chairs as residents continued to pack the venue.  Standing room only turned into balcony seating as accommodations were made for the larger than typical inauguration crowd.  A few jokes from the dais had the count of attendees outnumbering those that turned out for Donald Trump’s small inauguration gathering. 

Assembly Member Vanel greeted attendees, posed for pictures, shook hands and was constantly mingling, even throughout the ceremony.  Vanel would greet a resident then step toward the dais to thank an elected official for their remarks and pose for a photo opportunity.  This was a departure from previous inaugurations as elected officials typically hold court in a reserved room and remain on the dais for the program.  “I want the focus to be on the people and the performances,” said Vanel in a pre-ceremony interview about this change in format. 

As is their practice, elected officials from across the party and various offices attended the ceremony to give their congratulations and show support.  Most notably, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was in attendance.  He gave his support and cited how he was in a similar place representing a similar constituency, comprised primarily of African Americans, when he began his tenure. “I was where you are.  You have a speaker that knows your community well,” he said

US Representative Joe Crowley, Chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, and US Senator Chuck Schumer were in attendance.  “You got here the old fashioned way, you earned it,” said Senator Schumer. 

“He saw he wanted it and worked hard,” said NYS Senator Leroy Comrie. 

The message which was consistent throughout most of the elected speeches.  There was admiration for Vanel’s persistence in representing his community.  There was also acknowledgement of his professional resume as a key component of being the right person for the job.

“These are the times that call for Clyde Vanel…We have to lawyer up like never before,” said Public Advocate Letitica ‘Tish’ James when referencing the new Presidential administration. 

On display was Vanel’s immigrant story as the son of Haitian parents.  A shout of Haitian pride arose during the ceremony and traditional dance numbers were performed by Voix et Tambours D’Haiti.  His Haitian parents were visibly proud as they sat front row center for the event.  Also in attendance were his nine siblings, professionals in their own right, and their families.  During his inauguration speech, the new Assemblyman spoke of how his parents worked without ceasing despite the demands of family.  He couldn’t remember his parents taking a sick day.  “My mother worked for 40 years cleaning office buildings,” said Vanel.  “Not taking a day off work.  They never gave up”.

Vanel was emotional while speaking of his parents and equally emotional as he took his oath.  Surrounded by his wife and parents and holding his mother’s bible, Assembly Member Vanel was visibly tearful and choked up. 

His inauguration speech was brief.  After a host of personal thanks, the Assembly Member gave the vision for his District.  It began with a talk about values.  “Respect your elders.  We have to espouse that,” he said.  He also set a standard for the way young men and women carry themselves.  “I don’t need to see your underwear,” he said directed to young men.  “Young women, we don’t have to see all your goods.  Show us your mind,” he said.

He spoke about hard work, excellence and perseverance.  “We have to instill a sense of hard work.  If you don’t win, at least you are in the game.  We have to strive for excellence.  This is a community that doesn’t give up.  You come from a people that don’t give up,” he said. 

Although values are not something that can be legislated, judging by the amount of professionals and fraternal organizations in attendance he may be choosing to create a leadership example. 

Assembly Member Vanel spoke about his district from a place of prestige.  “We have to understand our greatness,” he said.  “We are a great people.” 

He addressed education from a position of the standards that are already in place.

“We have a great District.  Why do they talk bad about it,” he asked.  “We need to help it.”  Vanel spoke of bringing programs including study abroad, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) to prepare children for the global economy. 

On the subject of housing and the crisis of a generation not being able to afford to buy their parents’ home, Vanel spoke to the need for jobs.  Not just any jobs, but those with sustainable incomes.  “Can’t keep just talking about minimum wage jobs,” he said.  “We have to fight for good jobs”.  He pointed to the billion dollar expansion of JFK International airport and the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.

“We should be a world class Downtown Business center.  We should be the ones building our airport.  We built this nation.  We built the White House.” 

He ended his speech by saying “se are a great people.  Together we will make great things happen here”.

Assembly Member Clyde Vanel officially took office shortly after winning the November election, as he was assuming the seat vacated by Assembly Member Barbara Clark’s death.  Clyde Vanel represents Assembly District 33.