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Avella blocks Skala’s return to Community Board 11

At the board's monthly meeting at MS 158 Monday night, Avella, who was not present, was blasted by two board members for what they called his attempt to politicize the non-partisan board as the members reapply for their two-year appointments.The flap arose from an incident in which Avella had refused to sign board member Frank Skala's application to be reappointed to the board, citing complaints he had received from other board members regarding Skala's well-known outbursts. The refusal to sign Skala's application is tantamount to disapproval of his reappointment to the board, Avella said. "I've received complaints that he's disruptive," Avella said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I've been thinking about this for some time, and I've received these complaints for a while. I told him I would pass the application to the borough president, but I wouldn't sign it." Half of each community board's 50 members are nominated by the appropriate City Council representative, and Borough President Helen Marshall appoints the rest of the members.Skala contended Avella's censure stems from his outspoken opposition to Avella's pet issue, the ambitious plan to downzone most of Bayside's residential blocks. The head of the East Bayside Homeowners Association said his community board record should stand on its own."The community board should be inviolate on politics," Skala said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I think I do a more than creditable job as a board member."At the Monday night meeting, Board Chairman Jerry Iannece publicly scolded Avella for his refusal to sign Skala's application."This is a perfect example of the board being politicized," he said. "If a community board member has to look over his shoulder each time he votes, that is wrong."Avella denied that Skala's opposition to his rezoning application had anything to do with the reappointment.The councilman was also publicly lambasted for a letter sent to Bay Terrace community activist Joyce Shepard barring her from phoning or visiting his district office on Bell Boulevard and requiring her to conduct all future communication in writing only."He sent me a letter telling me to no longer call or visit his office," Shepard said at the meeting. "He's a wolf in sheep's clothing, and he's a phony.""She has been very obnoxious and very rude, and she uses foul language when dealing with my staff," Avella said in the phone interview. "No city worker has to deal with that. This doesn't mean I'm not going to help her, but since she has this attitude that she has a hard time keeping the facts straight, putting it in writing, I think, would help her."Shepard and Avella clashed over a recent community initiative on flu vaccine shortage in the area, an issue that Shepard said she had brought to the councilman's attention and was subsequently shut out of a meeting he held with Commissioner Thomas Frieden of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Avella chalked Shepard's anger up to her "ego.""What is more important at this point, resolving the issue or her ego?" Avella said. "I think it's more important to have the meeting. This is not an issue that anybody can claim credit for."Avella butted heads with Shepard and Iannece back in 2001, when all three faced off against each other during the Democratic primary for the District 19 Council seat. Avella is up for re-election in November.In other business, the board heard from a Bayside resident campaigning to have his block at 215th Street and 48th Avenue exempted from Avella's proposal to downzone Bayside."I pay taxes for 18 years for my investment," said Nikolaos Lapsatis, who said he bought his lot specifically to build a multi-family house. "Now this proposal will take it away." Additionally, the board voted unanimously in favor of an application by the Fire Department to acquire a small parking lot on 214th Place. They voted against an application to enlarge a building used for plumbing and construction materials storage at 59-25 Fresh Meadows Lane, citing concerns over increased traffic and an outdated certificate of occupancy. The board also voted against extending the term of a previously granted variance for Bally's Total Fitness at 245-02-34 Horace Harding Expressway, asking the applicant to reapply to the board when certain conditions regarding parking were met.Lastly, the board held its election of officers, and all the incumbents were re-elected, including Iannece as board chairman, Jim Rodgers as first vice chairman, Mohan Jethwani as second vice chairman, and Loretta Napier as third vice chairwoman.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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