About Tony Avella

Chair of the Children and Families Committee

Democrat, Independence Party Democrat, Independence Party

District 11

Tony Avella has dedicated his life to fighting for working and middle-class families. Prior to holding elected office, Tony was known in the community for his distinguished public service career. He was a civic activist, member of Queens Community Board #7, and an aide to a number of City and State elected officials. Perhaps Tony’s favorite job was his time as an aide to former New York City Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins.  

In 2001, Tony was elected to serve in  the New York City Council’s19th District representing Northeast Queens and was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in both 2003 and 2005. As a member of the City Council, Tony served as Chair of the Zoning and Franchises Committee and was founder and Chair of the first Italian-American Caucus. 

During his tenure on the Council, Tony authored several important pieces of legislation. Signed into law in 2005, his “Demolition by Neglect” bill strengthened the Landmarks Preservation Commission and has prevented the willful destruction of many of the City’s treasured landmarks.

Tony also led the citywide fight against overdevelopment, the proliferation of McMansions, and other major abuses of the City’s building and zoning codes. In an effort to preserve the unique residential character and quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the City, Tony helped create new zoning districts such as R2A, which prevents the construction of McMansions. Tony also rezoned major portions of his district, as well as numerous other neighborhoods in the City, and enacted citywide amendments to the “Community Facilities” section of the zoning code. Tony’s hard work resulted in the first real changes in the City’s zoning code in over 40 years.

In 2009, his last year in the Council, Tony received the “New York City Human Rights Award” for obtaining the highest score of elected officials in New York City on the Human Rights Project’s report cards. A city-wide human rights coalition with more than 100 groups from all over the City, the Human Rights Project is the lead organization of the New York City Human Rights Initiative.

Respecting the will of the voters who twice passed term limits, Tony refused to run for a third Council term. Instead, Tony took his message of change and reform city-wide, in a campaign for New York City Mayor. An underdog in the race, Tony ran on his populist reputation as New York City’s fiercest reform politician. He received rave reviews for his performances during the Mayoral debates and routinely challenged the status quo. 

After a challenging campaign against a 38-year incumbent, Tony was first elected to the State Senate in 2010. As a freshman senator, he was appointed ranking member of the Cities and Environmental Conservation Committees. Re-elected in 2012, 2014, and 2016, Tony has continued his dedicated service to the people of the 11th Senatorial District.   

In early 2014, Tony joined the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of five Democratic Senators focused on bipartisanship and efficiency in the Senate. The group is committed to bettering the lives of working-class families across the state through progressive legislation such as the DREAM Act and increasing the minimum wage. 

Tony currently serves as the New York State Senate’s  Chair of the Children and Families Committee. He is also a membermember of the Cities, Cultural Affairs, Education, Elections, Environmental Conservation, Finance, Housing, , Judiciary, Transportation, New York City Education Sub-Committee, and Libraries Select Committee.  

Additionally, Tony is the Chair of the Senate Task Force on the Delivery of Social Services to New York City, the first-ever task force of its kind. The task force aims to identify challenges and improve access to social services programs such as food stamps, affordable housing, Medicare and public assistance. In his first six years in Albany, Tony has been proud to have been a part of six on-time State budgets.

Tony is recognized by leading environmental groups as having led the successful fight in the legislature to stop hydrofracking from occurring in our State. Hydrofracking is an extremely dangerous natural gas toxic drilling practice that poses a dangerous risk to our drinking water and the environment. In fact, he has also received the distinguished Humane Legislators award from the Humane Society of the United States for his career-long dedication to animal-welfare legislation.

In the 2013-14 Legislative Session, Tony had three important bills signed into law by Governor Cuomo, including one that now requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to notify Community Boards in New York City of any new “brownfield” site cleanups taking place within their districts. The Governor also implemented Tony’s bill directing hospitals to provide all blind and visually impaired patients with a large print or audio recording version of the discharge plan and preadmission information in an effort to allow improved patient access to healthcare information while protecting patients' right to privacy.

Tony also took the lead in calling for much needed reforms to the Queens Public Library. He was instrumental in the passage of legislation that has already resulted in significant changes to the library’s leadership and organization. In March 2015, as a result of his reforms, the Queens Public Library held its first-ever public budget hearing, which allowed Queens residents an opportunity to see how hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are spent by the library in the upcoming fiscal year. 

Tony has been one of the major advocates in the fight against increased airplane noise not only across northeast Queens, but throughout all of New York City and Long Island. He has served as the liaison between constituents and both the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration to bring more transparency to how the agencies operate. Tony continues to play a vital role in establishing the first ever New York Community Aviation Roundtable that will allow the community to have input about the use of flight paths that have led to the increase in noise over residential neighborhoods. In 2015, Tony was chosen to represent the State Senate as one of 62 voting members on the Roundtable. He also successfully pushed for Governor Cuomo to implement a “Part 150” noise study, which will provide data that can be used to show how airplane noise affects neighborhoods and lead to efforts to mitigate aviation noise impacts throughout New York City.

In the 2016 Legislative Session, Tony received the Governor’s signature on all 13 of his bills delivered to the Governor’s desk. Among those Senators who had a 100% chaptering rating, Tony’s 13-for-13 record ranked the highest. Among those 13 bills were a number of measures that came out of his work as chair of the Children and Families Committee. As a result of Tony’s work this session, children in New York’s foster care system have increased rights and a better chance at being adopted, the Early Childhood Advisory Council was created to oversee and administer critical aspects of early childhood programs including child day care, preschool, and Head Start, and New Yorker’s with past military service who apply for public assistance are also put in contact with the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs to ensure that our veterans receive the proper assistance they need.

Moreover, Tony is recognized as a staunch good government reformer, both in his former role in the City Council and now in the Senate. Tony continues to refuse in the Senate, as he did in the Council, the “lulu,” an additional taxpayer-funded salary increase in return for loyalty to party leadership instead of taxpayers. Additionally, while in the Council, Tony fought against and subsequently refused the 25% City Council pay raise, which he considered unethical when the city was reducing services.

Tony remains at the forefront of the battle to reform the New York City’s Department of Buildings and Board of Standards and Appeals. Tony is also an acknowledged leader for animal welfare, veterans and senior issues and a fighter for property tax fairness for cooperative and condominium property owners.

Tony is a graduate of Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is a lifelong Queens resident and currently resides in Whitestone with his wife Judith.