Councilman denies attempt to kick rival off Board 11

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Newly elected City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has supposedly been exploring ways to get a former Democratic campaign rival thrown off Community Board 11 in Bayside, political sources said.

That particular rival — Bayside Hills Civic Leader Jerry Iannece — was elected chairman of the northeast Queens community board last week.

Avella denied the claims Tuesday, calling them “nonsense.”

Last fall Avella and Iannece competed along with three other Democrats — political newcomer John Frank, labor leader Arthur Cheliotes and activist Joyce Shepard — in a primary election for City Councilman Michael Abel’s (R-Bayside) council seat. Avella won the race with about 30 percent of the vote, while Iannece came in fourth in a five-person race.

Several sources familiar with Queens politics who asked not to be identified said Avella, a Whitestone resident, was stymied in his attempt to boot Iannece from CB 11 because Iannece was in the midst of a two-year term. Avella himself just began a two-year stint in the City Council, along with the rest of the Queens council delegation. The council terms have been shortened from their normal four-year span because of impending redistricting by the state Legislature.

One source said Avella attempted to influence the CB 11 elections on March 4 by pressuring board members not to vote for Iannece for the chairman’s post. Iannece is also president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.

Avella denied he was trying to oust his former political rival and said perhaps his efforts to introduce new members in Community Boards 11 and 7 within his district have been misinterpreted.

“This is nonsense,” he said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

When asked about Avella’s supposed attempt to boot him from the board, Iannece, who has been on Community Board 11 for about nine years, said: “I’m dismayed but not surprised.”

Iannece said he has not decided whether or not he will run for office against Avella again.

The 19th Council District covers most of northeast Queens and includes the communities of Bayside, Bay Terrace, Whitestone, College Point, Malba, Douglas Manor, Beechhurst, and parts of Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Linden Hill, and Murray Hill.

CB 11 covers the communities of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Hollis Hills and Auburndale.

Though the 2001 Primary Day election was canceled and postponed for weeks because of the Sept. 11 attacks, Avella eventually won the rescheduled race. The civic activist, who ran for the seat and lost twice before his successful 2001 bid, also beat out Republican Dennis Saffran by a slim margin in the general election.

Iannece ran against Abel in 1997 for the seat and lost.

Term limits have helped both men gain their current political positions.

Avella and the five other candidates who challenged him for Abel’s seat were aided by the term-limited end of Abel’s council career. Iannece was elected CB 11 chairman after term limits forced longtime board leader Bernard Haber out of the position.

--Adam Kramer contributed to this story

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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