An Avella Rebellion
June 12th, 2008
Lesson one of today’s City Council meeting: Never leave early when a land use decision in your district is on the agenda.
In what might have been a clear rebellion against City Council maverick Tony Avella, the council defeated a 100-unit development in College Point this afternoon by a vote of 25 to 20. Interestingly, while Avella was still at the meeting, the opposition to the development was seemingly nonexistent (it was approved unanimously by the body’s land use committee, Avella said).
But that changed as soon as he exited the chamber.
The opposition started with Councilmember Inez Dickens of Harlem, but went as far as Staten Island with the body’s minority leader James Oddo — a clear indication that proximity to this rezoning, which would have enabled the 100-unit development to go through, was not a factor. Member after member went from supporting the proposal to changing their vote to nay. More than a dozen members switched after initially voting for the proposal.
Hmmmm, maybe this is politics at work.
Some may recall the recent vote on 125th Street, which is in Dickens’s district and included a 46 percent set aside of income-targeted housing. Though it is common practice at the council to follow a council member’s lead on developments in that person’s district, Avella voted against the Harlem rezoning — which Dickens supported — citing a change in the neighborhood’s character.
One could infer when Dickens stood up today against this College Point rezoning, which does not include affordable housing and is all market rate, she gave the body an opportunity to strike back at Avella. (You could say he has a mixed reputation amongst his colleagues.)
Dickens said she was not leading a rebellion against Avella, but was fighting for affordable housing. “I have no time to worry about one council member,” Dickens said. “I fight for affordability.”
Via phone, Avella said he was shocked by the council rebellion today, saying it only proved his point: City Council is a bunch of children.
“If they are trying to send me a message, they just failed miserably,” said Avella. “They just sent a message to the entire city that they’re children.”
While the development did not offer affordable housing, Avella said it did include park improvements and was supported by the community.
One might ask what Tony Avella did to deserve this. Well, in the words of Councilmember Vincent Gentile — who changed his vote from aye to nay — “Tony left.”By Courtney Gross on June 12, 2008, 5:11 pm
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