2003-07-30 / Political Page

I on politics

Avella Panel Votes To Remove Zoning Code Abuses
By John Toscano
I on politics By John Toscano Avella Panel Votes To Remove Zoning Code Abuses

City Councilmember Tony Avella recently pushed through changes to the community facilities section of the Zoning Code when the matter came before the Zoning and Franchises Committee, which he chairs. The changes are expected to be approved by the full council eventually.

Avella (D–Bayside) said many civic and preservation groups spoke in favor of the proposals, one of which would limit medical offices in low density residential neighborhoods. The other would eliminate the non-fixed seating regulation for religious institutions, which has led to a serious erosion of the quality of life in many communities.

The medical offices issue has been controversial dating back to 40 or so years ago in Flushing and eastern Queens because residential homeowners felt it decreased property values by bringing too much parking into their areas. Others opposed the idea because doctors were taking private homes off the market.

Avella, a long time community activist in College Point and Whitestone, recalled, "Correcting the abuses of this part of the zoning resolution has been a personal crusade of mine prior to my election, and it was the first item on my agenda upon election to the City Council."

He added, "It is a victory for every civic, preservation and zoning group in the city that has advocated for these changes. Their persistence in demanding change demonstrated the overwhelming need for these amendments. It must also be recognized that this is but a first step, albeit a giant step, in preserving the quality of life in our city."

Another favorable aspect of the changes is that they were worked out by the city council and the Department of City Planning over the past year and a half, so the Bloomberg mayoral Administration is on board with them.

RAGUSA IS ANTI-ABSENTEE LANDLORD TAX: Philip Ragusa, the Whitestone certified public accountant who’s the Republican/Conservative candidate challenging Avella, was strongly opposed to the so called "absentee landlord tax," which was passed as part of the new city budget.

As a 32-year CPA, Ragusa says, "It’s not just bad public policy, it is bad economics and wrong—all the more since it follows on the heels of the real estate tax hike (18.5 percent on primary residence homeowners), sales and income tax increases."

He adds, "In a city that has an affordable housing shortage since World War II, raising the costs of single and two-family homeowners is ultimately a tax on renters." It’s also a burden on senior citizens living on a fixed income, Ragusa says.

HURLEY: ‘GIVE SURPLUS BACK TO TAXPAYERS’: Another GOP hopeful, Patrick Hurley, who’s looking to oppose Councilmember Eric Gioia for the Woodside/Sunnyside seat, told Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Gifford Miller "The unexpected budget surplus of $1.3 billion should be refunded to overburdened city taxpayers."

Hurley, also a Republican/Conservative, said the surplus should be returned in the form of income, sales and property tax relief.

"The grim reality is that the city budget has been balanced on the backs of hardworking New Yorkers," Hurley said. "No efforts have been made to obtain meaningful cuts in the waste, duplication and excess that are so endemic to New York City government and bureaucracy."

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: That’s what an election pitting president George W. Bush against United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would be. Both are world class pols, both can raise billions, and there would be no holds barred. The contest would also have the dramatic impact of a credible candidate seeking to become the first woman in history to claim the presidency.

According to a recent national Quinnipiac University poll, the race would be a tight matchup. The poll, results of which were released last Thursday, showed Bush edging Clinton 50 percent to 43 percent. The poll also showed weakening support for the president. His approval rating was down from a recent high popularity count of 73 percent in April to 53 percent.

Another reason we would like to see Clinton run is that Bush would swamp the five present contenders with a 50 percent tally to 21 percent for Senator Joseph Lieberman, 16 percent for Congressmember Dick Gephardt, 13 percent for Senator John Kerry, 10 percent for Howard Dean, and 6 percent for Al Sharpton.

Meanwhile, Clinton led all Democratic contenders with 48 percent, with Lieberman next closest with 11 percent.

CORRECTION: We recently wrote that Joseph Kasper was challenging Howard G. Lane, the Democratic designee, in the primary for Civil Court judge and was also challenging a Republican, Michael P. May, in the Republican primary. We were wrong.

Kasper, who has been a Republican district leader in Ozone Park for many years and has unsuccessfully run as a Republican for judgeships year after year, has shed his quest for Republican votes and is seeking the Democratic nomination instead.

We haven’t been able to reach him to try to get an explanation, but some of our Republican friends said they don’t know the reason either and were very surprised at the turnabout.

Our correction is based on information provided by Frank Kenna, co-chair of the Queens Republican Party Judicial Screening Committee.

HPD HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS: Councilmember Helen Sears (D–Jackson Heights) says that the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has financial aid available for eligible homeowners of one- to four-unit dwellings who want to repair their homes.

Sears says HPD offers homeowners low-interest home improvement loans of up to $20,000 which can be repaid over 10 years. The loans must be used for masonry repairs, defective roofing, plumbing repairs, electrical wiring and other repairs to correct poor housing conditions. Homeowners can visit HPD’s website at www.nyc.gov/hpd and download an application form, or can contact Sears’ district office at 718-803-6373.


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