Wednesday, February 28, 2007

UP FRONT News February 20, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


Although he is quite Caucasian, City Councilmember Tony Avella qualifies as the very dark horse announced candidate for New York City Mayor. Mr. Avella, who represents the 19th Council district in Queens, including Bayside, Whitestone, and parts of Flush- ing, among other neighborhoods, is running for mayor at least in part because he sees New York’s neighborhoods menaced by gentrification and over-development. He is not happy with Michael Bloomberg, the incumbent or City Council Speaker Christine (Lulu”) Quinn, the wannabe.
I first met Tony Avella when I went to City Hall to testify against the exorbitant and unwarranted salary hike for City Councilmembers and high level mayoral aides that was rammed through the Council by what I call the Quinnberg Administration. While a few of Mr. Avella’s Council colleagues expressed some opposition, Mr. Avella was the most militant on this issue, indeed taking it to the point where he refused to accept the increase and also his “lulu”, an extra bunch of money for being a committee chairperson. Chris-
tine Quinn is a Hillarycrat who rhetorically spouts for the poor while enriching herself
and the real estate industry. Like Mrs. Clinton, Quinn spouts human rights, but when it comes to standing up for the Chinese Communist-oppressed Tibetans by opposing the corporation enriching 2008 Beijing Olympics, she becomes mute.
When Mr. Avella and I chatted at the hearing (with Quinn giving me little more than an
icy stare), I learned that he is the Chairman of the Council Committee on Zoning & Fran-
chises. Aside from thanking him for his opposition to Quinn’s Intro 458 (the salary hike in the midst of NYC poverty ripoff) I immediately brought up the subject of the politicaly fueled gentrification and over-development particularly - but hardly exclusively - on
the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood that is sort of a Ground Zero in the developer vs. community wars. The once working class (albeit problem-ridden) Lower East Side, thanks to the proliferation of luxury hotels, condominiums, and luxury rentals is starting to look like parts of corporation-heavy White Plains or Long Island. The developer-pushed Bloomberg “rezoning plan” put forth by the Mayor’s City Planning people would if implemented extend the corporatization of the neighborhood and has generated strong protests from people like Rebecca Moore, founder of the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization (LOCO) and the less vocal but information-laden Rob Hollander of the Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development, among many others, including members of pivotal Community Board 3. Mr. Avella and I also talked some about over-development threats in Staten Island. The threat is certainly very real in Brooklyn (e.g. Ratner) the Bronx (e.g. Steinbrenner) and Queens (e.g. hotelization/
condominiumization in Long Island City).
Mr. Avella, who previous to our contact had not been very familiar with the intensity of the LES situation, has made it clear not only that his Committee will examine any rezon- ing proposal very carefully but that he is ready to meet with community people. While Mr. Avella is, of course, sensitive to geographical and district realities, that in no way ap- pears to limit his responsibilities as a Committee Chairperson. I am certain that he is also aware of the power of Christine Quinn with Manhattan elected officials.
I learned that Mr. Avella is an announced candidate fore Mayor in a very small reference in a newspaper article on another issue. It is apparent that, unlike Quinn, whose propa-
ganda appears regularly in the Rupert Murdoch-owned and de facto Hillary-happy New
York Post, Avella’s mayoral candidacy is relatively media-ignored.
Mr. Avella, who in a separate meeting in a Bayside pizza place told me about his
campaign, citing the over-development crisis as a central part of his concern, states that, in part because easily manipulated term “affordable”, developers receiving tax breaks are profiting while “…people are being priced out of their own neighborhoods.”
I think as Mayor he might even consider asking Councilmembers to donate those raises to some causes better than themselves. Mr. Avella was interested to learn that, in another issue covered up by Bloomberg and Quinn, homeless people in shelters and drop-in
centers are subject to staff abuse, some of the worst having taken place at “Peter’s Place” (where I stayed) in the heart of Quinn’s Chelsea district.
It is possible that the largest number of Tibetans in New York City live in Queens, which, at least as I see it, is the world’s greatest melting pot. Christine Quinn, several
years after taking credit for a pro-Tibet resolution (#802) in 2001 which I did the lobbying for (but which did not mention the critical Olympic Games matter) has refused to put the Olympic Games matter into another resolution and has ignored my January 30, 2006 e-mail to her via her Chief of Staff, Chuck Meara. My informal survey suggests that most of the quiet but visible Tibetan community in New York City is based in Queens.
Tony Avella is now considering introducing such a resolution. At least two of his Coun- cil colleagues from Queens, both Democrats, Helen Sears (Jackson Heights) and Melinda Katz (Forest Hills), have expressed some interest but seem more beholden to Ms. Quinn than is the evidently very independent Avella.
The developer-enamored New York Post is among the mainstream media serving as
Christine Quinn’s publicity organ. Tony Avella is thus a very dark horse. And so, back in 1991, was Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
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