Tony Avella Goes Post-Truth, Says de Blasio Fabricates Data on Traffic Deaths

State Senator Tony Avella is making a bid to become the Alex Jones of street safety. Photo: NY State Senate
State Senator Tony Avella is making a bid to become the Alex Jones of street safety. Photo: NY State Senate

Taking a page from the Trump playbook, this morning State Senator Tony Avella accused Mayor de Blasio of fabricating data on traffic crashes, producing no evidence to substantiate the claim.

On WNYC to talk about his 2017 run for mayor, Avella told Brian Lehrer he doesn’t “buy anything at this point that the mayor puts out.” Avella said that includes figures on traffic fatalities, which are drawn from police reports and disseminated by NYPD, NYC DOT, and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

After Avella asserted that some traffic crashes go unreported — which is no doubt true of fender-benders — he proceeded to ratchet up the paranoia:

Avella: So there’s a huge number in my opinion of accidents that are going on across the city that are not in the statistics. Now obviously if there’s a serious injury, you know, I would imagine the police are called, and you know an ambulance shows up.

Lehrer: Well deaths are recorded, right?

Avella: Right. But I believe that information can be manipulated, and I believe it is in the de Blasio administration.

If Avella chose to believe the data, he would have to accept that public policies he opposes — like bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and other street redesigns — have prevented the loss of life. So here you have one of the most powerful legislators in Albany in Alex Jones mode, denying reality that doesn’t mesh with his personal beliefs.

“My 12-year-old son was killed in a traffic crash,” said Amy Cohen, Sammy Cohen Eckstein’s mother and a member of Families for Safe Streets, in an email to Streetsblog. “These are real deaths and families’ lives are destroyed. To assert the numbers are made up is ridiculous. But even more troubling is Avella’s rejection of proven solutions to solve this preventable problem.”

Avella has a history of opposing measures to make streets safer. When he ran for mayor in 2009, he pledged to fire DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and falsely accused the Bloomberg administration of imposing bike lanes and public plazas on city neighborhoods by diktat. Avella is a reliable source of irrational attacks on toll reform, which would help alleviate gridlock while providing a funding stream for transit upgrades in his northeast Queens district.

Last year he went on a tirade over a pedestrian plaza in Flushing — a project that is not in his district and originated with Flushing residents — and publicly attacked local electeds for supporting it.

Avella opposed state legislation to lower the NYC default speed limit to 20 miles per hour, but backed the bill to establish a 25 MPH limit.

De Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan sent this statement:

Conspiracy theories do nothing but sneer in the faces of those who’ve lost loved ones on our city streets or fallen victim themselves. This administration is confronting the very real issue of traffic safety like none before it, investing over a billion dollars to reduce traffic fatalities and hold reckless drivers accountable.

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State Senator Tony Avella held a press conference this week to denounce a pedestrian plaza proposed for the Murray Hill section of Flushing. He’s afraid it will lead to unbearable traffic congestion. Too bad he’s conjuring nightmare scenarios about something that’s not even in his district: State Senator Toby Stavisky, who actually represents the plaza site and the blocks […]