June 6, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The outspoken owner of a popular Long Island City restaurant has announced that he plans to run for state Senate.
Josh Bowen, who owns John Brown Smokehouse at 27-20 40th Ave., made the announcement Thursday saying he is running for the District 59 senate seat because he is upset by a radical move toward socialism and wants to see New York City return to greatness.
Bowen, a self-described lifelong Democrat, says that the party has failed to seriously address crime, homelessness and the economy, will run as an independent.
He joins candidates such as Elizabeth Crowley, Nomiki Konst and Kristen Gonzalez in the race for the newly formed District 59 seat that covers Astoria, Long Island City, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and parts of Manhattan.
A political novice, Bowen has never run for elected office before.
However, he has stirred controversy in the past for voicing his opinion on local political matters
He gained a following for being a staunch supporter of the Amazon HQ2 coming to Long Island City. He even flew out to Seattle to urge Amazon executives to rethink their views once they shelved the idea of coming to the area.
Last year Bowen became embroiled in a spat with socialist city council candidate Jonathan Bailey after a campaign poster was left at his restaurant.
Bowen tore up the candidate’s campaign poster and uploaded a picture of its remnants to Facebook. The picture was accompanied by a message where he labeled Bailey a “bonafide Marxist,” and asked why businesses would want to hang up the candidate’s poster in their establishments.
Bailey criticized the post, saying the poster was intentionally ripped off at the head, and added that he was a socialist, not a Marxist.
The Queens Post reported on Bowen’s quarrel with Bailey. However, the story didn’t sit well with Bowen, who refused to speak to the Queens Post Friday about his campaign.
He cited the Bailey story as the reason for not taking an interview. QNS was the first to report on Bowen’s run for office.
“I have no comment for the Queens Post,” Bowen said Friday.
“I will never have any comment for the Queens Post after you all took a run at me based on a 15th placed candidate and a paid advertiser,” Bowen said on a call — and then hung up the phone.
Bailey, like many of his political opponents, took out political campaign advertisements with the Queens Post last year in his bid for the 26th Council District seat — which covers Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Dutch Kills and parts of Astoria. Bailey finished in ninth place in a 15-candidate race.
Bowen also clashed with former 26th District councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer over the Amazon saga.
Bowen got into a heated text exchange with Matt Wallace, Van Bramer’s chief of staff, in 2019 over the Amazon deal. Van Bramer, who opposed Amazon, posted a screenshot of the exchange on Twitter. Bowen viewed the former council member’s decision to post the texts for the world to see as underhanded — and filed a lawsuit against him.
Bowen had known Wallace and Van Bramer for many years prior to the incident. The case, however, was later dismissed.
The restaurateur initially operated John Brown Smokehouse out of 10-43 44th Dr. but closed it in 2020 after an eight-year run—merging it with his current 40th Avenue location.
He cited the pandemic and “idiot politicians” as the reason in a social media post. The post took aim at elected officials who opposed the Amazon HQ2 development and Bowen said that that section of 44th Drive was unlikely to flourish for years.
Bowen said that one of his goals in office would be to help struggling business owners and landlords by giving them a one-year tax holiday. He also wants to host a yearlong series of artistic performances financed by a new public-private partnership.
He said he would tackle the city’s uptick in crime by working to reverse bail reform laws and replacing them with a common-sense program for real criminal justice reform. Bowen publicly supported Republican Curtis Sliwa in his unsuccessful tough-on-crime campaign for mayor last year. Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels, a volunteer crime-fighting group, in the 1970s.
“I just want my kid to grow up safe in the greatest city in the world and our current leadership on both sides are ruining that hope,” Bowen told QNS.
“We deserve a city that is thriving and moving forward — like we had not too long ago.”
Bowen said he would tackle the homeless crisis by replacing the Department of Homeless Services with a private and accountable entity. He said the move would help at-risk homeless people get the care or assistance they need.
Other issues he aims to tackle include expanding school choice and going after pharmaceutical executives responsible for the opioid crisis.
He said he wants to see the city change course and for residents to come together.
“When united, there is no city greater or stronger than New York City, when divided we have chaos,” Bowen said.
“Unity is the most powerful force on earth. And I will do everything possible to unleash that power and return our city to greatness.”