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July 15, 2007

Tony Avella with Theodore Hamm


Brooklyn Rail
by Theodore Hamm

Democrat Tony Avella, a City Councilman representing Northeast Queens, is running for mayor in 2009. Prior to joining the council in 2001, Avella had a long track record as a neighborhood activist as well as community board member in Bayside. In recent years, Avella, along with Tish James and Charles Barron, has been one of the few City Council members to speak out against over-development. Among other issues, Avella has challenged the Bloomberg administration on the closing of firehouses, the developer-friendly rezoning of areas including Williamsburg-Greenpoint, and the proposed use of eminent domain to benefit private development in many areas of the city.

Rail: Do you think that the City Council is currently acting as a rubber-stamp body for Mayor Bloomberg and his big development projects?

Avella: Yes, unfortunately, it really is a rubber stamp for the mayor. Let me give you a current example. At the hearing I just attended on the proposed use of eminent domain at Willets Point, the Bloomberg administration was represented by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Only a few council members expressed concern for the many local businesses that will be condemned by eminent domain. Most of my colleagues seemed to overlook the fact that the EDC has a terrible track record in dealing with local communities. Hearing them talk, you’d think there’s nothing wrong with the EDC and that it’s doing a great job.
Rail: If you were elected mayor, how would you counteract the overdevelopment seen in many neighborhoods during the Bloomberg years?

Avella: Well, first of all, we’ve got to do a comprehensive re-do rezoning in the city of New York. We need to make sure that we accurately reflect the residential character of the neighborhoods. At the same time, we need to work with neighborhoods and communities to see where development can go. We need to eliminate all of the illegal construction and put some real teeth into the problem of the Department of Buildings. That agency is in total chaos. I mean, if you are a homeowner and you do the simplest little thing wrong, they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks—but developers get away with anything. We also need to take control of the little-known, quasi-judicial agency called the Board of Standards and Appeals, which is made up of five commissioners appointed by the mayor who really have almost total power, but there’s no oversight of that agency whatsoever.


Posted by amy at July 15, 2007 10:33 AM