Tony Avella

Independent Democratic Conference / New York State Senate

The newest member of the state Senate's ruling coalition is getting leadership positions on the chamber's environmental and social services committees.

Sen. Tony Avella of Queens joined the group of breakaway Democrats who share control of the Senate with Republicans on Wednesday. He had been in the traditional Democratic caucus.

The Senate leadership said Thursday Avella will become chairman of the social services committee and vice chairman of the environmental conservation committee.

"The Little Squirrel" by Dave Lucas

HOLLEY, N.Y. (AP) — A weekend squirrel-shooting contest pits Upstate against Downstate.

State Sen. Tony Avella of Queens and animal-rights activists are among those urging the Holley Fire Department to call off its annual "squirrel slam" fundraiser, scheduled for Saturday.