Avella calls on feds to investigate redistricting
by Shane Miller
Mar 30, 2012 | 280 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An elected official in Queens is crying foul on the newly drawn State Senate district lines, not because he is concerned that he was gerrymandered out of office, but because he believes the new lines are an attempt to silence his criticism of a land deal between the state and a Native American group.

State Senator Tony Avella held a press conference in front of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus Sunday morning, which until very recently was part of his district.

But when the new district lines were finally decided upon, the northeast Queens campus between the Grand Central Parkway and Union Turnpike was included in State Senator Malcolm Smith’s new district.

Avella has been highly critical of a deal between the state and the Indian Cultural and Community Center (ICCC) over ICCC's purchase of 4.5 acres of state-owned land on the campus since he learned about it after taking office last year.

“This continues to be an issue where new facts come out each and every day, and all I’m asking is the state just do a comprehensive review of whatever is going on at Creedmoor,” he said.

Avella argues that ICCC is purchasing the land at well-below market value in a no-bid process, and has called on the state Attorney General to conduct an investigation, which is ongoing.

Now he is calling on the federal government and the Department of Justice to look into the state-led process of redistricting and why he no longer represents the Creedmoor campus.

“This was done deliberately to try and silence me from continuing the investigation of the land sale on this property,” said Avella, who explained that there are no voters on the Creedmoor property, so it shouldn’t have affected the redistricting process, which is done to insure proper representation.

“There is no legitimate reason why this area, which has nearly no voters at all, would be removed from Senator Avella’s district,” said Richard Hellenbrecht of the Bellerose Commonwealth Civic. “Senator Avella has been at the forefront of this issue and has been actively ensuring that this curious land sale continues to get investigated.”

Avella said that ICCC is fighting a subpoena to turn over documents and information related to the sale of property.

“What are they hiding?” asked Avella.

Avella said he will continue to be an outspoken critic of the sale, but said that his time in the City Council taught him when it comes to land use and other issues, if the elected official who represents the area is on board, it’s very difficult to fight.

“It’s very hard to overcome another elected official when they are talking about something in their own district,” said Avella. “This puts me, unfortunately, at a very significant disadvantage when I’m fighting about the issues at Creedmoor.”

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