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College Pt. man to run for City Council

Declaring his candidacy Monday, Tony Avella was the first of at least four Democrats and one Republican to officially announce his bid for the 19th Council District seat being vacated by Councilman Mike Abel (R-Bayside) next year because of term limits.

Avella ran twice before for the 19th Council District - in 1991, when the district was created, and in 1993 - and lost both times. The district stretches through Bayside, Whitestone and College Point, and portions of Douglaston, Flushing and Little Neck.

"Serving the public, making our neighborhoods a better place to live, and improving the quality of life in our city has always been at the heart of my community endeavors and government service," Avella said.

Because of term limits, Abel and the rest of the Queens members of the Council are barred from running again for their seats by term limits. Abel as well as fellow Councilmen Thomas Ognibene (R-MiddleVillage) and Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) are eying the borough presidency.

According to the city Board of Elections, Avella is one of at least five candidates sparring for the 19th Council District seat. A spokeswoman for the board, Naomi Bernstein, said Democrats Jerry Iannece, Joyce Shepard and John Frank as well as Republican Christopher J. Butler have filed campaign finance records so far.

Nearly a dozen local elected officials, supporters of Avella and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) stood on the steps of Borough Hall on a raw Monday morning to lend their support to the activist.

"I, perhaps more than anyone else, have worked closely with Tony," said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), referring to Avella's position as her chief of staff. "I've never seen anyone as dedicated to his constituent problems than Tony."

In a biographical sketch released by the city council candidate, Avella said he first got involved in community politics 16 years ago, serving as an aide to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria). Soon after, Avella was appointed as the Queens liaison to then-Mayor Ed Koch. He served similarly under Mayor David Dinkins.

More recently, though, Avella has brought attention to the issue of fliers and stickers posted in parts of northeast Queens, in particular, Little Neck and College Point, by what is believed to be a white supremacist group.

Last month Community Board 7 voted unanimously to allow the city to begin preliminary designs of the College Point Sports Complex, which Avella heads as president.

"Tony doesn't recognize ethnic difference, racial difference or party differences," said Crowley. "He transcends all of these differences - that is why he'll be successful."

State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) also attended the press conference and threw her support behind Avella.

"I am thrilled to give Tony Avella my support and endorsement," she said. "He has been a tremendous asset to the community working on vital neighborhood issues and will be a great city councilman."

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