Beechhurst accountant to seek Avella’s council seat

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A Beechhurst accountant has kicked off his campaign to challenge Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) for his northeast Queens seat.

Phil Ragusa, a Republican district leader, has raised more than $10,000 for his run for the City Council, which is dominated by Democrats. Queens has one Republican member in its delegation.

“I want to bring some balance to the Council,” Ragusa said.

Ragusa, 63, is a partner in Ragusa & DeVito, a firm located on 14th Avenue in Whitestone and the head of the Beechhurst Property Owners’ Association.

Ragusa, who lives with his wife Nelly in Beechhurst, hopes to reclaim the northeast Queens seat for the Republicans that was held by Republican Mike Abel until term limits forced him out of office in 2001. The district encompasses College Point, Whitestone, Beechhurst, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Auburndale, Douglaston, Little Neck and parts of Flushing.

In an interview with the TimesLedger, Ragusa stressed the need to improve the finances of the city government.

“The Council presides over the budget, and it seems that’s the last thing they do,” he said. “They are busy doing street names and resolutions.”

As a councilman, Ragusa said he would push for more frequent audits of city agencies.

“An audit for me is like a good bath,” he said. “It gets out all the dirt.”

Ragusa attacked the City Council for approving Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 18 percent property tax increase.

Although Avella was one of only three in the Queens council delegation to vote against the proposal, Ragusa criticized the councilman for his handling of the issue.

“If you vote for every funding increase and then you turn around and vote against the money for that increase, come on,” he said. “ That’s not responsible,” he said.

Avella, however, said he had explored means of averting the tax increase.

“Anybody who has watched or paid attention knows I have come up with potential sources of additional revenues,” he said.

Avella, who has raised about $100,000 for his re-election bid, said he had tremendous support from his constituents.

Ragusa said he modeled himself after Avella’s predecessor, Abel.

“I think Mike did a great job,” he said. “He brought a lot of money into his district, and he did it with a quiet confidence.”

Ragusa has worked with Abel as well as state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). He said he could use his political connections to Padavan, state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and the Republican mayor to the benefit of his district.

“I have that line in the government to Frank and to Serph,” he said. “I would even be able to work with the mayor.”

Ragusa cited his fight against a plan for high-rises on the Hammerstein estate in Beechhurst as well as his work with the Fort Totten Revitalization Committee as examples of his commitment to the community.

“I’ve been around,” he said. “It not like I just came out of the woodwork.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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