By Kathianne Boniello
The race for City Councilman Mike Abel's (R-Bayside) seat became more crowded this week as a Bayside Hills civic leader joined the growing field of declared and undeclared Democratic candidates.
Bayside Hills civic leader Jerry Iannece filed his intent to run for office with the Campaign Finance Board last week, a spokesman for the city agency said. He is running on the Democratic ticket.
Other declared candidates for the 19th Councilmanic District seat include College Point activist Tony Avella, a Democrat, and John Frank, whose party affiliation is not known.
There is speculation Democratic Borough President Claire Shulman will seek the office after she leaves her current position next year because of term limits.
Bay Terrace activist Joyce Shepard, a Democrat, said she had filed papers to run for Abel's seat this week, but the spokesman for the Campaign Finance Board could not confirm that as of press time Wednesday.
Abel, who is raising funds for a run at the borough president's position, will be forced out of office along with most other City Council members by term limits.
Iannece, who ran against Abel in 1997, said he was not surprised by the number of declared candidates.
“It's going to be a big primary,” he said. “You always see that if it's an open seat.”
A former assistant district attorney in the Bronx, Iannece, who grew up in Astoria and moved to Bayside Hills in 1986, is a partner in his own law firm in Flushing.
Iannece said his legal experience, combined with his work as president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, make him a strong candidate for the seat.
“I'm a trial attorney,” he said. “That's what I do. I will go in as an advocate fighting for my constituency.
“If your city councilman is not there as an advocate,” he said, “what is he?”
The big issues in the district, which covers Bayside, Bay Terrace, Whitestone, Little Neck, Douglaston, and Auburndale, have not essentially changed since 1997, Iannece said. He has also been a member of Community Board 11 since 1995.
“It's a big district and although it's northeast Queens,” he said “College Point is different than Little Neck. Douglaston is different than Whitestone. You really have to be in tune with what's going on.”
Iannece said some of those issues include the development of large megastores, parking on the consistently crowded Bell Boulevard in Bayside, the sale of Fort Totten to the city, and the understaffing of the 111th Police Precinct.