By Phil Corso
Superstorm Sandy got state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) thinking about what he could do to ensure that Queens sees better returns in the wake of disaster, he said.
And over the weekend, the senator took his first steps toward accomplishing that goal when he kicked off his campaign in the race to replace current Borough President Helen Marshall.
“I’m running to put Queens back on the map in terms of city services,” Avella said, adding that his initial inspiration to run came in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s effect on the borough. “Queens has historically gotten the short end of the stick with city services and I’m looking to change that.”
In the wake of the storm, Avella said he was tired of seeing his home borough passed over for recovery resources that typically had gone to neighboring Manhattan or Brooklyn first.
And in the company of community leaders and friends, Avella spoke with confidence in the basement of his family’s Whitestone home as he outlined his plan to get the borough a better spot at the negotiation table.
“The New York City mayor is extremely powerful and you need a very strong borough president to stand up and make sure the 2 million people of Queens get their fair share,” Avella said.
The current Democratic field also includes former Democratic City Councilwoman Melinda Katz, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Director of Community Boards Barry Grodenchik, Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).
The senator said his campaign would take the grassroots approach by working from the standpoint of everyday residents to prove to the rest of the city that Queens was, and should remain, a residential borough. For the kickoff, Avella said he purposely did not invite any elected officials from the borough to underscore the priority he was placing on civic and community figures.
The ranks of those community leaders hailed from throughout the borough and represented various civic and community-based organizations.
“Tony has been one of the only guys who has been there for us, time and time again,” said Whitestone native Steve Young, who came out Sunday to support Avella’s campaign. “After Sandy, there was a lot of debris washing up onto the shore where I live and Tony came out with the feds to help make sure it was taken care of.”
Avella came to the decision to throw his hat into the borough president race in November on the heels of a successful re-election campaign to his northeast Queens seat, where he drew about 60,000 votes, according to the city Board of Elections.
In an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers, Avella said he believed that number of votes makes capturing the boroughwide role viable. The senator used strong language when he promised community leaders their efforts would not be wasted as they pushed for his election as borough president.
“This is going to be a winning campaign at the end of the day,” Avella said. “Everyone in this borough is going to have a real voice in how this borough is run.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.