Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Avella Battles Developers, CU in Mayoral Run

Avella Battles Developers, CU in Mayoral Run
By Daniel Amzallag

City Council Member Tony Avella, D-Queens, is currently running for mayor on a platform championing community in the face of real estate developers.

Avella has taken a strong stance against what he characterizes as “overdevelopment” and a lack of regard for local residents, especially regarding Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, although he actually represents Queens in the City Council.

“We’re going to take somebody’s business and home and give it to a developer to make more millions of dollars?” he questioned at a recent Coalition to Preserve Community rally, after being cheered following criticism of the lack of present elected officials. “You have my support,” he vowed, “we need a city that protects its citizens and doesn’t cave into developers.”

Avella is currently composing legislation, not yet made public, that would alter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the city planning process through which zoning changes must be approved “from the bottom up instead of from the top down.” The problem as the procedure stands, he said, is that it places power primarily in the hands of developers, as city officials “bend over backwards to accommodate them.”

“With the current procedure, the real estate industry, when they come up with a slight plan, 99 times out of 100 they get their way, mainly because they donate a lot of money to people who run for city offices,” Avella said. He acknowledged that he has received donations from developers, as well, but said that they were in small amounts and do not affect his decisions.

Avella has criticized other council members also for a “lack of independence in the council,” commenting that many elected officials “follow whatever the leadership tells them to do.”

But Reginald Williams of the Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville, a pro-expansion group, said that politicians’ support for Manhattanville and other development plans emanates from an honest difference of opinion.

“Elected officials are elected to represent our constituencies on broad wholesome issues and concerns that come before them during their tenure, and we’re not going to agree with everything,” he said. “Why say that because we share different visions about the future of our neighborhood that one has to be at odds or mutually exclusive?”

While other mayoral candidates have so far focused their efforts on securing funding, Avella has appeared at numerous rallies, speaking out especially against Manhattanville in what he calls “a real grassroots campaign.”

“I’m not selling my soul to raise the huge amounts of money that other candidates are doing,” he said. “I’m the anti-politician. I’m just a regular guy who wants to make this city better.”

Avella said he decided to run for mayor early in his tenure in the city council, having been frustrated with what he characterized as the lack of power of council members. “I quickly found that to address some of the larger issues you reach a roadblock the way city government is currently constituted,” he said.

“I don’t want to take baby steps, I want to take giant steps, and the only way to do that is to take over City Hall,” he added.

Daniel Amzallag can be reached at

TAGS: Mayoral Candidate, Tony Avella

View Comments ( 1)Post a Comment

So I guess any institution that wants to construct a building is now labeled a "developer" in a negative sense, regardless of the purpose of the building and whether or not it is for profit or not.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) December 5th, 2007 @ 10:02am

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