Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday in NYC: Avella denounces overdevelopment; Luxury Living showcase draws throng

Longshot mayoral candidate Tony Avella, a maverick City Council Member from Northeast Queens, officially launched his candidacy yesterday afternoon at a City Hall press conference. Seeking to distinguish himself from the highly-scripted typical politicians, Avella declared that he hadn't written a speech but instead would speak about three main issues.

Indeed, two of Avella's issues barely registered with the crowd of supporters behind him: lowered taxes and a revamped education system. Rather, they applauded heartily when he condemned overdevelopment, asserting that the real estate industry has too much power and "the city has done very little to preserve quality of life."

"Overdevelopment," he said, "is destroying the character of every community. That absolutely must stop."

Brooklyn in the house

While most of Avella's supporters appeared to be from Queens, I did spot a couple of Brooklyn activists in the crowd. Avella has opposed the Atlantic Yards plan and the use of eminent domain, though his opposition to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, which does have support in Brownstone Brooklyn, might put him out of synch with some Brooklyn supporters.

Asked if he felt he was handicapped facing politicians with stronger Manhattan or citywide identities--other candidates include fellow Democrats like City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller William Thompson--Avella declared, "The issues are the same. It all revolves around planning, development, quality of life."

Luxury Living

After leaving Avella's press conference, where some supporters carried signs asserting "The revolution starts... now!", it took just three stops uptown along the #6 subway line to visit the New York Observer's Luxury Living: New York Condo Showcase at the Puck Building at Lafayette and Houston streets.

Compared to the crowd at City Hall, this group was less gritty and better-dressed. There was a bar, musical entertainment, and other festive accoutrements. And all these projects, and their buyers, gain benefits from the belatedly-reformed 421-a tax break, which has fueled development all over the city, including the Queens districts that constitute Avella's base.

Brownstone brand

Booths showed off eight condo developments from the Upper West Side, eight from the Upper East Side, two from Midtown East, three from Midtown West, seven from Downtown, two from Riverdale, one from Long Island City--and seven from Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn list:
Forte
One Brooklyn Bridge Park
150 Myrtle Avenue
The Edge
Northside Piers
80 Metropolitan
One Hanson Place

Note how the display for Forte condos in Fort Greene used the brownstone scale of the rest of the neighborhood as a selling point.

Trickle down

There was obviously lots of revenue attached to the event, but a nonprofit organization got the proceeds from ticket sales ($5-$10):
The Coalition for the Homeless is among the nation's oldest and most progressive advocacy and direct service organization helping homeless men, women, and children. We are dedicated to the principle that decent shelter, sufficient food, affordable housing, and the chance to work for a living wage are fundamental rights in a civilized society.

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