Tensions flare at North Shore Towers after Avella criticizes colleagues
By Joe Anuta

Nearly 1,000 people crammed into North Shore Towers in Little Neck Thursday night to listen to a panel discuss about the skyrocketing property assessment values the city assigned to condos this year and last as tensions flared between Queens elected officials.

Bob Friedrich, co-president of the organization that sponsored the discussion, started off the evening by saying he did not want “lip service” from politicians and running through the reasons why he believed the city Department of Finance unfairly assessed property values that rose by as much as 150 percent in one year. But things got heated when state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) took to the podium.

“As far as what Bob said earlier about lip service, well I think there has been a little bit too much of that tonight,” Avella said, referring to some of the lawmakers who spoke before him.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) had already left by the time Avella spoke, but state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) were on hand to hear his comments.

Avella derided colleagues in state government for proposing mulitiple bills designed to correct rapidly rising assessment values using various approaches. He also bashed leaders for proposing bills he suggested were just ploys to help them get re-elected, yet touted his bill as the best of the three currently in Albany.

“I appreciate the Presidents Council, the coalition for supporting my bill. Now I’m not going to spend a whole night telling you why it is the best solution, but it is,” Avella said.

Stavisky and Braunstein have co-sponsoered a bill in Albany, as has state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck).

The senator’s comments visibly upset Mark Weprin, who immediately stood up and took the microphone.

“I’ve got to disagree with Tony on a number of things he just said. I know we’ve been working together on this, Tony. We’ve been working very hard. And with all due respect, you’re the one who hasn’t been at most of the meetings,” he said.

“I just can’t believe you would make a statement like that, because we have been working together. This has nothing to do with whose bill it is,” Weprin said.

After the exchange, Avella went over to Weprin and said his diatribe was not directed at the councilman.

Warren Schrieber, who is another co-president of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, tried to smooth things over.

“I think at the end of the day, we’re not going to see anything in its present form that was introduced by Avella or Toby Stavisky. I think that all of these bills are a starting point and when something finally comes up in Albany, it’s going to be a hybrid,” he said.

But Friedrich seemed to revel in the brewing tensions between the lawmakers.

“Actually, I enjoyed seeing the legislators unmasking their public persona,” he said. “I’m going to tell you, politics is a disgustingly dirty business. You see a public persona that is perfect.”

Friedrich also had words with Braunstein, who took the mic later in the evening.

“No, Bob. You’ve been pointing your finger at me as though I’m the problem, as if I’m not getting things done when I have poured everything I have into this,” Braunstein said, adding that he has made countless calls and explored many avenues to solve the problem. “I’m trying to get something done and I think it’s really unfair for everybody to have some kind of riot in here as though we’re not doing our jobs.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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