Two Whitestone residents are battling to represent their hometown as District 19’s next city councilmember.
Democratic nominee Tony Avella calls himself a “moderate, common-sense” candidate, while Republican nominee Vickie Paladino identifies as a conservative, but populist on certain issues.
Avella won his party’s June primary after receiving a 37 percent share of the vote, beating out five other candidates. His approach to politics is focusing on local issues, and ensuring that every constituent’s concerns are addressed. Casting a vote for Avella would mean “returning common sense to city government,” he told the Chronicle.
“It means having a councilmember who pays attention to the local issues, who is on a first-name basis with constituents,” he said. “It’s having a councilmember who will come to your house if you have a problem.”
Avella previously served as the district’s City Council representative from 2002 to 2009, followed by an eight-year run as a state senator.
Whilst enjoying a two-year hiatus from public office following the loss of his 2018 senate re-election bid, Avella realized he was not ready to retire. He said he’s noticed a decline in the standard of living in his neighborhood since leaving office. Avella was also heavily inspired to campaign for his old seat by neighbors and former constituents — he said many have approached him in the streets or in stores over the last two years and expressed their wishes that he was still their representative.
“I’m not happy with the deteriorating quality of life in the district,” he said. “I still have something to offer.”
Similarly, Paladino decided to throw her hat in the race after noticing a decline in the district, in which she has lived in her entire life.
“Our neighborhoods simply will not survive more of the same, and my opponent quite literally represents ‘more of the same,’” Paladino said. “It’s time for a new kind of leader, and it’s time for the people in this district to finally have a representative who understands what it’s like to be a taxpayer, homeowner, business owner and mother — and will fight relentlessly to protect what we’ve all worked so hard to build here.”
The Republican nominee won the June primary against John-Alexander Sakelos after claiming about 52 percent of the votes. Sakelos, however, is also a registered Conservative candidate, and will appear on the general election ballot against Paladino and Avella in November.
Paladino had run for office once before, but lost the 2018 state Senate race to John Liu (D-Bayside). The loss only fueled her desire for change, and to be a red voice in a largely blue city.
“First and foremost, a vote for Vickie Paladino is a vote for the change our district desperately needs,” Paladino said. “We can all see our communities in decline everywhere we look, and the fact is that the dysfunction we face today is a direct result of years of incompetent representation by career politicians who simply do not care. Whether it’s skyrocketing crime, homeless shelters in our neighborhoods, or rampant overdevelopment, the reality is that our community has been poorly-served by its representatives for a very long time.”
Paladino and Avella have different visions of what to tackle if they emerge victorious.
Paladino says she will prioritize the safety of the district first and foremost, and let the NYPD know she is on their side. She also supports reversing bail reform, as well as restoring the plainclothes anti-crime unit, especially within the subway system.
Paladino would also work to refund the NYPD the $1 billion that was chopped from last year’s budget.
“And after that, on day one I will put the political establishment on notice that their radical plans to transform our district are officially over,” she continued. “Whether it’s more homeless shelters, Section 8 housing, or abolishing single-family zoning in our residential neighborhoods — I will begin to fight them from the minute I take office and will mobilize every resource in this community against these disastrous plans.”
Avella is also a supporter of the NYPD, and has major plans for the district’s 109th Precinct in particular — for years, he has been a strong advocate for subdividing the precinct, which has the highest population density of any precinct throughout the five boroughs, so that its officers could more effectively serve its neighborhoods.
Avella also has a whole host of issues he plans to take on if elected, many of which were started, but never finalized, during his previous time in office.
One bill he introduced as a senator, for example, would reform the co-op and condo tax code so that property tax caps for class-one properties could be applied. The bill passed the Senate, but not Assembly, and he plans to reintroduce it at the city level.
Another quality-of-life issue Avella hopes to tackle is giving homeowners the ability to refuse a city tree planting in front of their home, and to allow homeowners the right to prune their own trees if it is within reach, rather than waiting for the Parks Department to do so.
Part of the latter plan also involves requiring city agencies to respond to constituent complaints within a more timely manner.
“There are a lot of these issues that never seem to go away,” Avella explained. “There’s still a lot