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/ April 9, 2009
NYU Kicks Off Mayoral Candidate Series with Intimate, Somewhat Awkward Conversation with Tony Avella

Tony AvellaThe first of four NYU’s “Meeting the Mayoral Candidates” Saw iii″>Conversation Series opened last night with a quaint discussion with Queens Councilmember Tony Avella, an admitted long shot to succeed Mayor Bloomberg. The event, inside Gallatin’s Labowitz Theater, was eerily reminiscent of James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio: intimate and slightly uncomfortable. The NYU Office of Public Affairs was really trying to push the whole “conversation” thing – one of the first questions was “what does your mother call you?” Avella’s answer: she passed away. *crickets*

Nonetheless, the event was worthwhile: Bloomberg bashing, anecdote telling and blatant stump speeching.To a crowd of about 20, mostly older adults not even associated with NYU, Avella was humble and offered a good pitch, even though he looked and sounded just like Republican geezer Fred Thompson.

Born and raised in Queens, the Hunter College grad explained that he wasn’t the “most conscientious student” in college and was never involved in any activities, which means there is at least some hope in my future. He also proclaimed that he “loves public service, but hates politics” (he rejected a 25% Council pay raise two years ago). The reformist pledged to actively involve local communities in his policymaking as mayor.

When Bloomberg’s name came up, he then spent a good 15 minutes criticizing Hizzoner on his reliance on his “inner circle.” The first thing he would upon entering office? Fire Dept. of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, Bloomberg’s henchman on education reform. Ouch. And after I asked about the city buying out companies in Willets Point, Queens (the moderator shoved the mic in my face once I said I was a blogger), Avella got particularly red in the face discussing the current mayor. He closed by promising his scant audience that, if elected, “you will see change.” Hm, sound familiar?

The next conversation is next Thursday (4/16) with Rev. Billy Talen, a Green Party candidate and head of the Church of Stop Shopping. Expect a comedy show.

Photo via the Village Voice