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Bayside councilman eyes mayoral run in 2005 race

Queens Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) may take on Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he runs for re-election next year in a bid to change the way city works.

Avella announced Sunday that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for mayor in the 2005 race.

“I am appalled by what I have seen in city government during my first term in the City Council,” he said. “We spend more time dealing with politics than on the merits of the issues.”

Avella made the announcement outside the shuttered Engine 212 in Williamsburg. The firehouse was one of the five that were closed amid last year’s budget cuts.

“I am here because of the failure of the City of New York to respond to the concerns of the citizens,” Avella said. “To balance the budget we put people’s lives in jeopardy. We need to do more to reopen these firehouses.”

Engine Co. 261 in Long Island City was also closed for budget reasons, despite a similar outcry from the community.

The councilman and his committee, made up of members of the committee that helped Avella win re-election last year, will talk to people throughout the city to gauge their concerns, Avella said.

The councilman will decide whether to run for mayor or re-election to the City Council over the next year, since candidates cannot vie for offices at the same time, he said.

And although Avella realizes it is unlikely that he will win City Hall, he is hoping his campaign will draw attention to the government’s faults.

“While I assess my chances at ‘slim to none,’ I cannot simply sit back and ignore the failure of city government to address the needs of its citizens,” he said. “Something needs to be done. We need to change the very nature of how we do business in this city.”

Avella has often clashed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg since the two took office in 2002. Avella was one of a handful of Council members to vote against the 18.5 percent property tax hike compromise brokered by Bloomberg and Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan).

As a penalty early last year, Avella lost the parking permit issued by Bloomberg’s office and was removed from his seat on the Council’s Rules Privileges and Elections Committee.

“The mayor still hasn’t given me my parking permit,” Avella said. “The mayor and Gifford Miller are fighting over themselves to refund the property tax. I voted against it and I’m still paying the price.”

Avella has also been lobbying for the repeal of Bloomberg’s smoking ban, and most recently, the councilman has been protesting the mayor’s plan to put 180 wholesale businesses on the former Flushing Airport site in College Point.

“Why are we not doing more to protect these residential communities?” Avella asked.

Avella joins a handful of Queens officials who have expressed interested in running the city. Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) threw his hat in the ring, but will likely not run so he can focus on his duties as head of the Labor Council. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Rockaway) is waiting for information on fund-raising rules, and former Councilman Tom Ognibene (R-Middle Village) has also been eyeing the executive office.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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