Rail: What do you think other council members are afraid of?
Rail: Even so, it was still a bit unlikely for someone representing your district to vote for a radical black nationalist like Carson, yes?
Avella: I think that’s a correct assumption. I mean, my district is 80 percent white. But in fact, I only got a small number of complaints. And I think that’s a tribute to my district.
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,
Avella: Right, in the process that I’m outlining, the community plans become the city’s plan. What we’re going to do is come up with a whole new way of planning—instead of doing it from the top-down, we’ll do it from the bottom-up.
Avella: Yes, it really is a quality of life matter. I don’t understand why we can’t be a city that takes care of its own citizens and listens. I think that’s one of the faults that government has. We don’t listen. We tell people what we think is in their best interest. That’s the reverse of what it should be. We should be listening to city residents and doing what they want. I’m a neighborhood guy with a long background as a civic activist. We’ve had a mayor who is a billionaire businessman, and we’ve had career politicians—why not try a civic activist?