‘Experience still matters’: Former northeast Queens politician Tony Avella launches campaign for District 19 City Council seat

Tony Avella announced he would run against Councilwoman Vickie Paladino in 2023. (QNS file photo)

Former Queens City Council member Tony Avella is once again running for his old Council seat in District 19 for the 2023 election. If he ends up winning the Democratic primary on June 27, he will presumably face off against sitting Councilwoman Vickie Paladino.

“I’m always a local guy,” Avella said. “I started out as a community activist. The City Council deals with local issues and that’s what most people are concerned about. I think I can be of help to my community.”

Avella served as a New York City Council member from 2002-2009. He then served as a New York state senator from 2011 to 2019.

“Experience still matters,” Avella said. “I have more experience than all the other candidates in this race. I’ll apply the experience and dedication that I’ve always had to my previous constituents and, hopefully, my new constituents. I’ll be out there each and every day if elected to the City Council to help them address their issues.”

While Avella lost to Paladino in the 2021 general election, he feels much more confident about his chances now, in large part because of some key endorsements that he’s earned. Assemblymen Edward Braunstein and David Weprin, along with State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, have already voiced their support for Avella.

According to Avella, he didn’t receive as many endorsements from colleagues during the last election.

“When I won the primary in 2021, I didn’t have the support of the [Democratic] organizations or the endorsement of our local elected officials,” Avella said. “This time around, the campaign is even stronger. We’ve had more support than we did last time when we won the primary. I’m very appreciative of the support of Toby Stavisky, Ed Braunstein and David Weprin. That goes a long way to show Democratic voters that we’re united.”

According to Avella, one contributing factor to his decision to run again was concern over some of the anti-LGBTQ statements Paladino has made. Additionally, after Avella had numerous conversations with Democratic leaders and interested parties, the majority believed he stood the best chance of winning against Paladino.

Some critical issues that Avella believes District 19 faces now include crime (especially hate crimes) and education. Additionally, he believes that integrity and professionalism in the office are lacking under Paladino. He feels that with such a diverse populace in northeastern Queens, it deserves to be represented by somebody more accepting of the lifestyles of those who inhabit it.

Avella noted that when he served on City Council, he would devote all his discretionary funds to education. This included improving technology in the schools, dormitories and expanding cafeterias.

“I’d like to see every student not only have up-to-date computers and technology in the school but have the ability to take home the computer,” Avella said. “Not every family has an up-to-date computer. So when the student goes home, they may not be able to do their homework to the best that they can while they’re in school. I think education remains a top issue.”

Avella would also like to oversee the creation of a new police precinct out of the 109th Precinct. He has been advocating for this for a long time. He pointed out that with the 105th Precinct being divided into two precincts, the 109th Precinct is now the largest in terms of geography and population.

“We need a new precinct,” Avella said. “I think that will increase police presence and reduce police response time.”

Avella is also advocating to improve the stormwater drainage systems in the area. He believes that with climate change contributing to harsh storms becoming more frequent, the current drainage systems have become outdated, as they aren’t built to handle them so often.

“We’re getting more flooding on the streets and the highways,” Avella said. “People are getting more flooding in their basements. There needs to be a greater emphasis on how we deal with climate change and improving the stormwater from the storms.”

Since leaving the City Council office in 2009, Avella said that representation there has become much more diverse. While he praised the growing diversity, he also felt that City Council should be doing more when it comes to oversight of city agencies.

“The mayor controls the city agencies, but the City Council has oversight responsibilities,” Avella said. “I think the City Council needs to do more in that respect to make sure that northeast Queens or any other neighborhood in the city of New York is getting not only its fair share of city services, but that it’s being done properly and that constituent concerns are being addressed. I think we can still improve on that.”

Avella received another key endorsement Thursday from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“I’m proud to endorse Tony Avella for City Council in District 19,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Tony has been an advocate for Northeast Queens his entire life and it is now more important than ever that we have someone who will fight for the community. From his dedication to his constituents to his work to mitigate the effects of Climate Change, Tony is the best person to represent Northeast Queens in City Hall.”

In addition to Richards, Braunstein, Stavisky and Weprin, he has also received endorsements from New York State Committeemen Matt Silverstein and District Leaders Carol Gresser, David Fisher and Facia Class.