College Pt. vote ‘pathetic:’ Avella

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City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) assailed a negative City Council vote on a community-supported development in College Point last Thursday as a "childish and pathetic" effort to send a political message to him for his past criticisms of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and several of his colleagues.

The Council voted 25-20 to deny a zoning application that would allow for the construction of a 90-condominium development at the corner of 14th Avenue and 115th Street in College Point. The developer, Gary Simpson, has collaborated with Community Board 7 for more than four years on the project and has promised to make more than $200,000 in improvements to neighboring MacNeil Park.

The proposal seemed primed for resounding approval in the Council before a coalition of members led by City Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan) came out against it last Thursday on the basis that it did not contain affordable housing.

But Avella, who is running for mayor and is known for being openly critical of his colleagues and the Bloomberg administration, said the vote had little to do with housing.

"I was tipped that some of the Council members were going to try to send a message to me," Avella said. "There are a few Council members who I've been critical of and outspoken against, and this was their stupid attempt, a childish attempt to send a message to me."

The negative vote will have little effect on the planned development itself.

Under City Council regulations, any vote on a land use application must be a positive vote. Therefore, in order for the project to be denied by the City Council, a majority of the Council would have to vote on a new motion to deny the proposed project.

Since the Council voted 25-20 against approving it, unless the Council takes another vote on the proposal, the City Planning Commission's previous ruling to approve the project stands.

Avella accused Dickens of acting together with Quinn to send a message to him for his criticism of their policies and actions in the past. Most recently, Avella led a campaign against the controversial rezoning of Harlem's 125th Street, a project that both Dickens and Quinn supported.

"To do this, to in effect put a very good housing project in jeopardy because you don't like another Council member. They're like children," he said.

A spokeswoman for Dickens, who was appointed to the position of Council majority whip by Quinn in 2006, said the Harlem Councilwoman has no interest in petty politics and that her quarrel with the plan was a lack of affordable housing.

"This didn't have anything to do personally with Councilman Avella, it had to do with her commitment of affordable housing," said Lynette Valasko, Dickens' legislative director.

The area Simpson wishes to develop is currently zoned for light manufacturing uses and needed to be changed to a residential zoning for the plan to continue, prompting the Council vote.

Simpson has also pledged to make more than $200,000 in improvements to neighboring MacNeil Park, including a new boat ramp, new fencing, park benches and a pathway from the Poppenhusen Institute.

"The community really stands to benefit a great deal from this," said Steven Sinacori, a Simpson representative.

Queens City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), who also voted against the plan, did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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