Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Protesters gathered in Bayside on June 29.

A number of protesters assembled outside of a Bayside-based lawmaker’s office on Thursday morning to demand that he and seven others end their alliance with Republicans and rejoin traditional Democrats in the State Senate.

State Senator Tony Avella, who represents Bayside, Whitestone, College Point and Douglaston, is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC): a breakaway group of eight Democratic senators working in a coalition with Senate Republicans. Avella joined the caucus in 2014.

Protesters gathered outside of Avella’s office — located at 39th Avenue and Bell Boulevard — on June 29 as part of a series of demonstrations at each IDC member’s respective office this morning.

“The State Senate would have a Democratic majority, but since these eight Democratic senators are caucusing with the Republicans, we no longer have a Democratic majority,” said protester Sydney Frankel. “Essentially, because of them, a lot of things aren’t getting passed in the Senate right now or brought to a vote.”

Protesters were there with a focus on climate issues, calling for more legislation that would require the state to move toward renewable energy.

“It seems like the IDC sort of agreed to vote Republican. They’re willing to vote on the Republican agenda,” said Paul Auerbach, a Bayside resident. “When you vote for a Democrat, you expect him to back up the Democratic side.”

“Why would you join a group of people that are there purposely to block legislation?” asked Steven Rich.

“They all ran as Democrats, and they’re now essentially Republicans,” added Frankel. “They duped everyone.”

Of the eight protesters in Bayside, three were with the Food & Water Watch and one was with 350NYC, a nonprofit that opposes new coal, oil and gas projects.

Avella is currently in Albany for a special session that Governor Andrew Cuomo called to focus on extending mayoral control of the New York City public school system. Two members of Avella’s staff came outside to distribute packets containing Avella’s voting record regarding environmental conservation, which protesters requested earlier that morning. Rebecca Sheehan, Avella’s chief of staff, also spoke to protesters on her own behalf.

Avella's staff speaks with protesters

Avella’s staff speaks with protesters

A prepared statement from IDC Director of Communications Candice Giove was also distributed.

“It’s disappointing that these protesters senselessly killed trees to create misleading placards since the members of the IDC are fighting to protect our environment,” Giove said. “We are working with climate science experts to strengthen the recently introduced Climate and Communities Protection Act so that New York can act as an example for other states in the face of federal failure. And, we proudly passed the Community Risk and Resiliency Act that makes our state monitor climate change risk such as sea level rise, flooding and storm surges, and use data to predict extreme weather. This major law included investments in environmental infrastructure projects to revitalize waterfronts, cleanup coastlines, and protect farmland. It also included revolving funds to address water pollution and drinking water concerns. The members of the IDC are committed to combating climate change and will continue to fight for this issue.”

Reaction from protesters was immediate, vocally calling the statement “condescending” and “disrespectful.”

Avella addressed protesters’ concerns in a statement issued later on Thursday.

“The threat of climate change is a serious threat to our city, our state, our country and our world and is something that I am, and have been, committed to combating,” Avella said. “I am proud to be the Senate sponsor of the ‘Climate and Community Protection Act’ and I will exert the same commitment and passion in getting this bill passed as I did in leading the fight against high volume hydrofracking in the legislature that culminated in Governor Cuomo’s decision to not permit HVHF in New York. I will continue to work with advocates and climate scientists to ensure that the CCPA is able to achieve all of its goals in the fight against climate change in New York State.”

This is not the first demonstration regarding the IDC to happen at the location. In February, dueling protests broke out in front of the Senator’s office over his affiliation with the breakaway group of Senate Democrats.

Earlier this week, dozens gathered at The Jewish Center of Jackson Heights to question state Senator Jose Peralta on his involvement with the IDC. The senator did not respond to their invitation, organizers of the event said. A demonstration also took place last month at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, with protesters demanding that Peralta also end his alliance.


Join The Discussion

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Joe Horn July 01, 2017 / 06:19AM
One protester for each Democrat with the courage to cross party lines when it is the right thing to do.

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Steven Katz June 29, 2017 / 04:05PM
If these protesters are hanging on the climate change issue, much of which has been debunked, then the person who made the statement about them killing trees to create placards for a non-issue was correct. They need to be informed and act on facts not emotions and hysteria based on falsehood.

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