Jun. 28, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Tony Avella is a mere 124 votes ahead of fellow candidate Christopher Bae in the race to clinch the Democratic nomination for northeast Queens’ District 19 City Council seat as of Wednesday morning, according to unofficial results from the city’s Board of Elections (BOE).
As of June 28, Avella currently leads Bae and Paul Graziano with 2,243 votes, accounting for 38.97% of the vote. Bae is in a close second place with 2,119 votes (36.81%), while Graziano has received 1,362 votes (23.66%). There have also been 32 write-in votes submitted, accounting for .56% of the votes tallied.
The race is too close to call and will be decided by ranked-choice voting, which had previously been approved of through a citywide ballot measure in 2019. Under this process, voters select their candidates in a preferred order of choice. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, the Board of Elections will turn to the votes of lesser, eliminated choices until a majority is received by a candidate.
Once the ranked-choice voting process is complete — and all absentee ballots are counted — the BOE will certify the results and declare a winner, who will then face off against incumbent Councilwoman Vickie Paladino in the general election, scheduled to take place Nov. 7.
“Thank you to everyone that voted today,” Avella said Tuesday night. “The results are in, and we are confident that we will prevail when the ranked-choice voting process is over. As we wait for the final results, we will continue our work to ensure Vickie Paladino is defeated this November.”
“Four months ago I was sitting in the trenches in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting violent criminals, when I looked around and said this is not where we should be as a community,” Bae said. “That’s when I decided to run. To challenge politics as usual, to reject the idea that we were getting what was owed to us and to introduce fresh ideas and new energy to our city’s government. Last night sent a strong message that the community agrees! We have to make sure every vote is counted, because every vote counts. We made it to round two, when almost no one expected us to survive round one. I am humbled and energized and ready to keep fighting for this community.”
Paladino was elected as the district’s council member in 2021 after defeating Avella in the general election. Her platform at the time was a promise to bring change and transparency to the district.
Avella has a long track record of experience. He served as the District 19 city councilman from 2002 to 2009 and as a state senator from 2011 to 2019.
While voter turnout was noticeably low Tuesday in District 19 and throughout Queens, the candidates are hopeful that more people will show up to vote during the general election. One major factor behind this expectation is the common belief among the public that there is more at stake in a general election compared to a primary. Additionally, since Paladino was unopposed, there was no Republican primary held, limiting the amount of potential voters.
Graziano has founded or advised multiple civic and homeowner associations within District 19. He surveyed and co-designed the contextual rezoning plans for Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck, North Flushing and Whitestone in order to better protect these neighborhoods from overdevelopment.
Graziano assisted in making Fort Totten into a public park and historic district rather than high-density luxury condominium towers. Additionally, he also assisted in the creation of the Douglaston Hill Historic District, protecting 36 historic homes from demolition. Graziano also authored the Broadway-Flushing National Register Historic District Nomination Report, which placed more than 1,300 homes on the National Register of Historic Places in the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood.
“Although I did not prevail, I am glad I could bring some important issues to the forefront in the CD19 race, including LL97’s impact on co-op and condo owners and the attempt to take away city retirees’ health care,” Graziano said in a Tuesday night Twitter post.
Bae is a former prosecutor for the Queens District Attorney’s Office. In that role, he prosecuted violent felony offenses, securing convictions related to shootings, loaded firearms, stabbings, robberies and burglaries. His mother has a deep background in education, having worked as an educator for children with special needs. Bae also credits her participation as a union member with teaching him about the importance of organized labor.
District 19 covers much of northeast Queens, including Whitestone, College Point, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston and parts of north Flushing.