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Protesters clash at IDC rally against Avella

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More than 100 people rallied outside the office state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) Friday to protest his defection to the Independent Democratic Caucus, a group of renegade elected officials who have allied themselves with the GOP representatives in an attempt to pass legislation in an Republican-majority Senate.

With accusations of betrayal and signs saying “Phony Tony, you lied to us,” the rally was organized by Rise and Resist, a gender rights group and Indivisible, a progressive anti-Trump movement. Both organizations have challenged the IDC.

Police and a group of counter-demonstrators mobilized in support of Avella, who later brought protesters into the conference room of his office to directly address their concerns.

“They are enabling Republicans to block legislation that [the IDC] claim to support,” said Betsy Malcolm from Rise and Resist. She pointed out that the transgender rights bill Genda “has passed the Assembly 13 times and has never gotten a vote in the Senate.”

Two other protesters claimed that there is no need for the IDC, which does not win the Democrats any kind of majority and only further blocks legislation from passing.

“You’ve got all the answers lined up to whitewash this issue, like, ‘Oh, I get money for my district,’ and I said at what expense? The expense of all the other constituents who are represented by Democrats who caucus with Democrats in the state” Dale Corvino said.

Paul Rabin charged that IDC members are playing a “strawman” role in a “duplicitous” game.

“You can be as progressive if you want if it’s never actually come to a vote,” Rabin said.

Paul Graziano, an local activist and counter-protestor with about 20 others, said Avella’s track record of getting legislation passed was impressive and in keeping with Democratic values. He charged that protesters are going from IDC senator to senator without understanding that official’s contribution and creating a circular firing squad among Democrats.

“What people need to understand is that the Republicans don’t need the IDC,” Graziano said, explaining how the GOP already holds the majority. “The IDC are in coalition because it benefits the IDC and ultimately benefits a lot of Democratic districts, as well as being able to advance legislation that the Democrats as a whole would not be able to do. So if the IDC was not in this coalition, they would be in the minority with the other 23 Democrats and they would not be able to pass anything.”

In 2016, Avella touted his record, claiming he had passed over 50 pieces of legislation over the course of last year. Graziano attributed Avella’s success to his membership in the IDC.

Sitting at the conference table in his district office, Avella spoke with angry protesters face-to-face.

One woman asked what Avella has done to benefit Democrats.

“Well, I beat a Republican in the general election or a Republican would be sitting here,” Avella said, referring to his victory over Mark Cipolla in November. “I’m defending the Democratic Party in this district, in a very conservative district, where a Republican can get elected any day of the week. That’s why Frank Padavan was in office for 38 years.”

Avella further argued that he is behind Democratic legislation and bills, such as the DREAM Act, which he co-sponsor in every version introduced to the Senate.

He blamed the most recent defeat of the bill to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for financial aid on traditional Democrats.

“When you say ‘a real Democrat,’ that offends me,” Avella said. “Because you’re making the decision then of what you consider a Democrat to be. Democrats used to have a wide tent. That’s how we won elections, and that’s what we should be about. Not saying ‘Well, you don’t agree with me so you’re not a Democrat.’ Shameful, for anyone who says that. Shameful.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) was a recent recipient of backlash over his decision to defect to the IDC, and defended his stance as a revolt against the “bad mouthing and cannibaliz­ing” of Democrats who veer away from the usual script.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 6:13 pm, February 24, 2017
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Reader feedback

Bob Friedrich from Glen Oaks says:
People just don't know how politicians work. Help them with their campaign with fundraising and they will give you what you want. As president of Glen Oaks Village Co-op, I donated to Avella's campaign using shareholders money and in return, Avella allowed shareholders to rent the attic and basements for rent. Otherwise shareholders would leave to buy their own homes.
Feb. 25, 2017, 10:16 am
George from College Point says:
You're not a real Democrat because you are part of a GOP coalition empowering Republican control. Stop deflecting. There is nothing wrong with being a Republican. Run on that line. People are finally catching on to this nonsense. The IDC is about desperation for power and relevance. Avella tries to act like he is more ethical than everyone else, and this proves his hypocrisy. Admit the truth, DINO.
Feb. 25, 2017, 10:23 am
Maria A. from Bayside says:
Mr. Avella has been part of the IDC for years, and during this time he's helped countless citizens in Northeast Queens.

The Senate Majority leader is in Jail, as is the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver. Who knows when Cuomo will be indicted; corruption in Albany is rampant. Avella has the guts to separate himself from the pack that votes the way Cuomo wants them to vote.

He supports legislation that helps our citizens. Has anyone noticed that he's right, our district can easily elect a Republican should the Democrat move to the far-left and join the loony-tunes progressive radicals more concerned with bathrooms than good government.
Feb. 25, 2017, 6:26 pm
George from College Point says:
Avella helped make Skelos the Majority Leader. Stop with the alternative facts. And yes, our district easily elected a Republican for City Council. He is now in jail for bribery. And if we still had Frank Padavan, our district would be getting way more money from the State, due to his seniority and for being a real Republican, rather than a faux Dem.
Feb. 25, 2017, 10:11 pm
George from College Point says:
Also if "Avella has the guts to separate himself from the pack that votes the way Cuomo wants them to vote" then why didn't he have the guts to hold one single hearing regarding Skelos' corruption when Avella was the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee? I guess fear of losing the perks he gets from his GOP buddies was more important than getting rid of corruption.
Feb. 26, 2017, 3:19 pm
jim from bayside says:
never got the airplane noise to stop!
Feb. 26, 2017, 10:42 pm
Marjorie from Bayside says:
At least he's trying.
Feb. 27, 2017, 9:28 am

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