The District 19 City Council race is pretty unusual this year — two Republican hopefuls have triggered a primary, the winner of which will face off against one of the six Democratic candidates.
Here are the eight contenders hoping to succeed term-limited Paul Vallone (D-Bayside):
Tony Avella (D)
The City Council seat had once been held by Tony Avella, and he wants it back. He served in the City Council from 2002 to 2009, followed by a seven year run as a state senator. In the years before holding elective office, Avella was president of the Bayside Historical Society, College Point Civic Association, Bay Terrace Civilian Patrol and Northshore Anti-Graffiti Volunteers. The former College Point, now Whitestone, resident identifies as a “moderate, common-sense Democratic candidate.” His No. 1 campaign priority is to address the ongoing pandemic by restoring lost jobs and aiding small business recovery. Avella also aims to protect one-family home districts against overdevelopment, support the Specialized High School Admissions Test and Gifted and Talented programs and lower property taxes for one, two- and three-family homes, co-ops and condos.
“I am frustrated with what I see as happening in New York City and in my community. Real leadership is needed now more than ever and I believe my experience and government knowledge is essential at this crucial time.”
Adriana Aviles (D)
Retired NYPD Officer Adriana Aviles is focused on education. The District 26 Community Education Council president and Community Board 11 Education Committee member moved to Douglaston because the schools are so great, and she wants to ensure that students across the city get the same quality. She aims to redistribute Department of Education funding to upgrade buildings, expand specialized high schools and Gifted and Talented programs, provide technology to students and offer more resources to immigrant families. Aviles does not support defunding the police, but as a former officer she’s identified key areas that would improve the department: extending training beyond six months, conducting deeper psychological screenings and including more sensitivity training. Another priority of Aviles is to expand transportation accessibility, especially to her corner of the borough, referred to by many as a “transit desert.”
“The pandemic has brought to light the same old is no longer working for the majority of us. Special interest groups as well as career politicians have been in control of the important conversations as well as the outcomes in elections for way too long, and I feel its time for change.”
Nabaraj KC (D)
College Point native Nabaraj KC is a real estate agent and the assistant district governor for Rotary International, a humanitarian service organization of business leaders. He is a moderate Democrat focused on ensuring that the city recovers from the pandemic by making streets safer by investing in programs that help young people find jobs and foster better relationships between police officers and the communities that they protect. Other major campaign objectives are to support and empower small businesses through loans that offer future forgiveness options and introduce new policies like commercial rent control. Education is also important to KC, and he plans to invest in technology for every student and school building structural upgrades.
“I have spent my life dedicated to bettering my community and I’m running for City Council to take on the challenges that we face in the years ahead. This district is my home and where I am raising my family, we need an advocate who will know how to deliver for our community.”
Richard Lee (D)
Richard Lee, who grew up in Douglaston and now lives in North Flushing, has served as the budget director for the Queens Borough President’s Office since 2014. He’s also worked as a budget and legislative director in the City Council and as a policy director for Asian Americans for Equality. The moderate Democrat’s main focus is reducing waste in the budget to ensure that services like education, social services and senior-program funding won’t have to be cut to offset predicted revenue shortfalls. Lee’s campaign also centers on maintaining quality of life in northeast Queens, expanding small business support, improving public safety and ensuring school funding.
“My reason for running is the same motivation that compelled me to leave the private sector to join a non-profit organization; the same that led me to enter government. It is a motivation to help those in my community and those around me. The policies that the city implements to combat our public health and economic crisis will have longstanding impacts, and I will use my unique experience and skillset with the New York City budget and legislative process to advocate and deliver for our communities.”
Austin Shafran (D)
Austin Shafran is raising his two young sons in the same Bayside community where he was raised. He’s spent 15 years at various levels of government, including with former Rep. Gary Ackerman, City Council Finance Chairperson David Weprin and as state Economic Development Agency deputy commissioner, where he helped manage billions in business assistance and job-creation programs across the state. He’s also a small business owner. His top priority is passing a 2 percent property tax cap for homeowners and reforming and reducing property tax assessments for co-op and condo owners. Shafran will also fight to increase funding for senior transportation and health services, bring more resources to schools and educators including a citywide Universal Daycare program and support small businesses and workers with economic assistance during Covid recovery.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges due to Covid that has affected our economy, schools, businesses, seniors, and families ... There’s no one more committed to getting our community the resources we need to come out of this crisis stronger and safer. The experiences that my family and others like ours have faced guide the neighborhood-driven approach I will take to delivering more funding for our schools, better services for our seniors, and tax relief for our families and businesses because we need a new approach and fresh leadership that will not only think outside the box but reshape it to better fit the unique needs of our neighborhoods.”
Frank Spangenberg (D)
If you don’t recognize Dr. Frank Spangenberg from his time as an NYPD lieutenant, a high school teacher or as an adjunct assistant professor of criminal justice in John Jay College’s graduate program, you might recognize him from his winning streak on “Jeoporady!” in 1990. Spangenberg, who spent half of his life in Flushing and half in Douglastion, defines himself as a “pragmatic moderate who does not believe that good ideas are limited only to one side or the other of the political spectrum.” His top priority is to maintain public safety while ensuring police officers understand, respect and work with the community. He does not support defunding the police, but believes officers should be given better resources and training and that recruitment should be stricter. Additionally, Spangenberg looks to tackle school overcrowding, adequately fund area senior-citizen programs and defend the borough from overdevelopment.
“Through more than 34 years of service to the people of New York, I have had the opportunity to obtain valuable experience in many areas, and a thorough knowledge of a wide variety of issues that confront our city today. I now want to offer my service in a new way as a member of the City Council, so that I may continue to use my knowledge and experience for the benefit of my community.”
Vickie Paladino (R)
Whitestone resident of 66 years Vickie Paladino has owned two small businesses while balancing motherhood and local activism. She identifies as a conservative, but populist on certain issues. Her No. 1 priority is “undoing the damage done to this district and our neighborhoods through eight years of failed left-wing mismanagement and apathy.” She also plans to fully refund the NYPD to ensure public safety and end “insane” pro-crime policies like bail reform and closing Rikers Island. Paladino hopes to reopen the economy by ending all Covid-19 restrictions and canceling all Covid-era fines levied on small businesses. She will also prioritize specialized high school testing, investing in charter schools and reducing the power of teacher unions.
“This district has suffered from poor representation for years, by Democrat politicians who claim to be moderate during election season, then join the radicals who control their party by voting for policies antithetical to the interests of the district — and we are in decline because of it. I’m running because the hardworking middle-class people of this community need a real voice in City Hall, not more of the same single-party political machine that simply doesn’t care.”
John-Alexander Sakelos (R)
Humanities professor, union member and small business owner John-Alexander Sakelos now lives in Bayside, but spent his early days in Flushing, where his family’s floral shop is located. He ran for the District 26 Assembly seat in November, but lost to incumbent Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) by a margin of just 5,000 votes. His top priority in his City Council bid is to improve the quality of life in the district, which includes focusing on controlling crime spikes. He also plans to improve the economic environment for middle class families and small businesses, as well as bring transparency to city agencies, specificially the Department of Education.
“We are running this campaign to improve quality of life in D19 and bring balance and common sense back to city government.”