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On August 15, 2013, Korean American Civic Empowerment visited Tony Avella, the state senator for the 11th Senate District in New York.

At this meeting, KACE interns discussed the current issues and needs of the Korean American community in Whitestone, Auburndale, Douglaston, and Little Neck.

Senator Avella comes from a civic activist background and entered politics twenty years ago as a staff member for New York City Councilmember Peter Vallone, Sr. He was a part of the Koch and the Dinkins administrations and also worked for New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-16). He was a member of the New York City Council from 2002 to 2009 and was elected to the Senate in 2011.

Sen. Avella is known for leading various causes and campaigns; the most prominent of which is his staunch opposition to hydrofracking in New York. A shortened term for “hydraulic fracturing,” hydrofracking is a very contested issue all across the United States. For several years, an interest in bringing hydrofracking to New York has been increasing due to the abundance of natural gas under New York’s Marcellus Shale. However, Senator Avella started an opposition campaign because of his concern for the residents of the State of New York. To extract natural gas out of the shale, a deep hole must be bored into the ground and hundreds of thousands of gallons of pressurized water along with a plethora of chemicals must be injected. Some of the chemicals are diesel fuel and benzene, both known to be carcinogens. On top of the chemical issue, the Marcellus Shale in New York is naturally radioactive, so when the shale is fractured, it will release a profuse amount of radon into the atmosphere. Currently, there are no means to clean up the environment nor the treatment of the now-radioactive waste water. In regards to the possible economic benefits to hydrofracking, Sen. Avella stated that specialized workers from other states or even other countries will benefit from hydrofracking and the increase in cash flow to local business will be in the short-term at best.

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Sen. Avella spoke about corruption and transparency in government as well.

Starting from the US Open tickets that are dolled out to elected officials by the United States Tennis Association to the “lulu” distributed to loyal members of the party, these financial contributions are eroding the public’s trust in the government. Avella himself declined the tickets and other benefits. Avella states that he is trying his best to make the government more stable.

In regards to the controversy surrounding the 149th Street Bridge in Flushing, Avella stressed that he is placing pressure upon the New York City Department of Transportation for answers and explanations. Rebuilt in 2005, this bridge is closed off from road traffic because of a conflict between the NYC Department of Transportation and the contractor. Both parties are trying to avoid taking responsibility for the dispute. Due to the closure of this main thoroughfare, the Murray Hill area is heavily congested and small business around the area are taking the hit. Sen. Avella said that the New York City Department of Transportation is not being honest to the citizens and that he will do his best to bring a resolution to this problem.

KOREAN AMERICAN CIVIC EMPOWERMENT
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