Tony Avella Throws High and Hard at Debate

Listening to Queens councilman Tony Avella at last night's Democratic mayoral candidates' debate was like watching "Wild Thing" Vaughn, the rookie pitcher played by Charlie Sheen in the old movie, "Major League." Like "Wild Thing," Avella throws a torrid fast ball. Like "Wild Thing," he's also just as likely to kill a cruising seagull as find the plate.

Avella's volleys of high hard-ones drew the loudest and most sustained applause from the audience. Undoubtedly, many people clapped to keep from freezing to death as the AC was cranked up to sub-zero in the marvelous glass-domed refrigeration room known as the Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library where the debate was held.

Despite the chill, Avella's face shone with a thin glaze of sweat as he brought on the heat, giving true-blue Dems fed up with Mike Bloomberg plenty to cheer about. Since this week's Quinnipiac poll shows that rival Bill Thompson stands to trounce Avella in next month's primary at a rate of 45 percent to 10, Avella had nothing to lose. He won just by showing up and giving New Yorkers tuned in to the live NY1 debate broadcast a chance to see him and hear him. He did such a good job of stoking the anti- Bloomberg fires that Thompson - whose goal was to look tough but mayoral - often sounded like a faint echo.

Here are some of Avella's withering blasts:

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--On Bloomberg's claims of improving education: "I don't care how many millions he spends on his TV ads claiming education improvements. It's a lot of bunk!"

--On schools chancellor Joel Klein: "I'd fire him. I've been saying that for years."

--On Bloomberg's successful push to overturn term limits: "It was an absolute disgrace. A fatal blow to democracy."

--On the mayor's increased personal wealth since taking office: "How is it that he was worth $4 billion when he took office, and then, in a recession, he's now worth $16-$18 billion?"

--On Bloomberg's failed plan for congestion pricing on cars entering midtown: "I was against it. No one drives into Manhattan because he wants to."

--On Bloomberg's increased donations to local nonprofit and cultural groups: "He's not donating that money for charitable purposes."

--On charge that he doesn't mix well with others in the City Council: "You're damn right I don't get along with some of those council members who raised their own pay and take money from real estate developers."

--On police "stop and frisk" encounters, now at an all-time high: "Just end it. Stop the practice. I think it serves a hidden purpose. Get a new police commissioner. Let's get back to the cop on the beat."

--On abuses by council-members in discretionary grants to local groups: "I'd end all discretionary funds."

--On balance of power between council and mayor over budget issues: "I'd be the first mayor to give up budget power. Give more to the council."

--On having raised only $271,000 for his campaign so far: "I'm not dialing for dollars. I'm not taking money from real estate developers."

--On construction delays at ground zero: "It's a disgrace. The city should've Use eminent domain to seize the property and build the project itself."

--On city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik- Khan: "She should be fired."

--On improving the economy: "We need to bring back the manufacturing jobs."

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