A member of the Democratic Party, he represented the New York State Senate’s 11th District in northeast Queens from 2011 to 2019. The district included the mostly affluent neighborhoods of College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Floral Park, Beechhurst, Malba and Auburndale. Avella also served as a member of the New York City Council from 2002 to 2009, representing some of the same Queens neighborhoods in District 19.
Avella is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of Democratic state senators who allied themselves with Senate Republicans. He was also a losing candidate in the 2009 New York City mayoral election, the 2013 Queens Borough President election, and the 2017 New York City mayoral election.