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Media Watch

Tony Avella Roused to Action By Dinged Up Mercedes, Not Loss of Life

3:29 PM EDT on October 10, 2017

People who bike are safer on this segment of Northern Boulevard, and Tony Avella won’t stand for it. Image: CBS 2

DOT has almost finished installing a protected two-way bike lane on a stretch of Northern Boulevard connecting to the Joe Michaels Mile bike path. It's a project that eastern Queens residents urged the city to take on after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman last summer, near 223rd Street, as Schenkman tried to bike from Northern Boulevard onto the off-street path.

But if you only follow the coverage prompted by State Senator Tony Avella last week, you'd never know this project reconfigured a high-speed street design that contributed to the loss of human life.

Avella has sided with Queens Community Board 11's underhanded campaign against the bikeway, which repurposed one lane of motor vehicle traffic. When two motorists struck the barrier that separates the bikeway from cars, Avella saw an opening. He got CBS 2 and the Queens Tribune to play along with his antics, framing minor property damage while the project is still under construction as a public safety hazard.

While Avella is up in arms about a couple of inattentive drivers who dinged their cars on a protective barrier, he never acknowledges the barriers were installed because a driver killed Michael Schenkman.

Neither CBS 2's Scott Rapoport nor the Tribune's James Farrell mention Schenkman by name, and Rapoport completely overlooks the fact that Schenkman's death prompted the project. (DOT did set the record straight to Farrell, noting that the bikeway is "a direct response to a cyclist being killed on this section of Northern Boulevard" and that the "barriers did their job to protect those in the bike lane from accelerating turning vehicles.")

Michael Schenkman and Tony Avella
Michael Schenkman and Tony Avella

These are the lengths Avella will go to in his quest to preserve street capacity for cars.

In September, he tried to silence New Yorkers who want a safer Northern Boulevard by keeping them away from a press conference where he called on DOT to scrap the bike lane. When that didn't work, Avella falsely claimed counter-protestors had no stake in the project, dismissing local residents and business people who took time out of their day to defend it.

During his latest failed run for mayor, Avella attacked the city's Vision Zero program to reduce traffic injuries and deaths by accusing Mayor de Blasio of fabricating crash data, producing no evidence to support the claim.

Because Avella is an elected official, some press outlets grant him an instant platform for whatever point he wants to spout. That doesn't mean he's done anything to deserve credibility on traffic safety issues.

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