State Senator-elect Tony Avella said he will push for an ethics overhaul of Albany's Legislature as well as focus on district issues, such as improvements to District 26 schools, after taking office in January.
Avella found out Monday afternoon that he had defeated state Sen. Frank Padavan, R-Bellerose, who was first elected in 1972, following the Republican's decision to concede earlier that day.
"We ran a very good campaign," Avella said. "We had 500 volunteers out on Election Day. I knocked on more than 7,000 doors and talked about the issues. I think that had a huge effect."
In a statement released Monday, Padavan conceded the race and said he was proud of his record in the Senate.
"Earlier today, I officially ended my pursuit for another term in the state Senate," the statement read. "The voters of the 11th Senate District have spoken and now our community heads in a new direction. While the decision comes with a heavy heart, I welcome new and exciting opportunities to continue my life-long service to the northeast Queens community."
For the district, Avella said he will focus on many of the same issues he tackled as a city councilman, but at the state level.
"It's the same type of constituent services," he said. "It's still getting traffic light or fixing a pothole."
Avella said that Douglaston issues at the top of his list include providing funds for District 26 schools and helping the community to wrap up a long-term project to restore street signs in the neighborhood to their historic names.
He said he would also support the creation of a new junior high school and high school in District 26, which covers Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside and several other Queens neighborhoods.
The senator-elect, who served on the City Council from 2002 to 2010 and ran for mayor in 2009, said he would call for ethics reform when he gets to Albany.
"I think we need to do some serious ethics reform," he said. "We need to strengthen ethics provisions and enforcement."
He said he wants to introduce term limits for state lawmakers, require the Legislature to deliver a balanced budget on time every year, reform campaign finance and limit campaign spending.
Avella gained a reputation of being adversarial while on the City Council, but the senator-elect said he believed that this was not the case.
"I'm really not," he said. "There are certain principals that are non-negotiable. For example, I think the extension of [city] term limits was a disgrace. It's when good government is stalled that I get adversarial. I don't believe in going along to get along."
He also plans to support legislation to legalize gay marriage in New York State.
"I'd definitely vote for it," he said. "I've been for marriage equality for some time. I would bring it up for a vote in the Senate."
Upon taking office, he plans to send out a mailer to district residents to find out what they need. He also said he would hold regular town hall meetings in the district's neighborhoods, which include Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside, Whitestone, College Point, Bellerose, Queens Village, Flushing, Hollis, Jamaica Estates, Floral Park and Glen Oaks.
Avella said he planned not only to fight for community schools, but also to challenge city Department of Education policies.
"We have the mayor [Michael Bloomberg] running the education system like a business," he said. "We have a curriculum that does not allow for individuality. And they are not properly funding the system. Principals find out Friday at 3 p.m. about new policies that go into effect on Monday."
The senator-elect believes he could possibly have more of an impact on city government in Albany than he did in the Council.
"I think the state Senate has more control over the city," he said. "The City Council does not have control of its own destiny. You have to go to Albany to get anything done."