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

As far as Avella is concerned, people who bike and walk on Northern Boulevard just don't count.

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

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.

  • Driver

    Shout out to Peak Bike Shop in Douglaston for petitioning for the bike lane and promoting the counter protest against Avella’s press conference.

  • Joe R.

    If that barrier had been there for any purpose other than to protect a bike, would Avella have complained? I highly doubt it.

    The drivers hit the barrier because they’re incompetent, period. I don’t see how any other interpretation of this is possible. In fact, it seems any time drivers hit barriers designed to protect vulnerable users some people get up in arms. Just watch where you’re going, slow the f down, and maybe you won’t run into stationary objects.

  • Reader

    When drivers hit parked cars, no politician calls for parked cars to be removed.

  • Joe R.

    Same thing when they hit stores.

  • c2check

    Different story with the “Slow Zone” sign posts, though…
    Of course I’d argue they should indeed be larger, harder, and leave a nice dent. If you’re not paying enough attention to see a large, stationary object on the side of the street, that’s on you.

  • Urbanely

    I think it’s a good thing that the bike lane got his protection, but I don’t understand why there can’t also be signage indicating that the lane ends. It’s not supposed to be a “gotcha”. Put up a sign, let people merge left a little earlier and everyone continues on their way. DOT has taken similar speed cutting measures in other areas. Why not give this one the same treatment?

  • Joe R.

    DOT should put up signs but I’m dubious they would have much effect. If the drivers don’t see a big barrier right in front of them I doubt they would notice a sign warning of it. The only thing which might work here is to light up the approach to the barriers like a Christmas tree. Even then I’ll bet good money some drivers will still hit the barrier.

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed. Those crashes were driver error. There isn’t any signage when approaching stopped traffic on the road either. Do you just crash into stopped or slowed vehicles on the road?

  • AnoNYC

    There should be more signage but these crashes are driver error.

  • AnoNYC
  • Joe R.
  • AMH

    They even call that an accident!

  • AMH


  • William Lawson

    Tony Avella is part of an old school breed of thoroughly ignorant, selfish, self-serving career politicians which is hopefully dying out.

  • Joe R.

    He’s also part of the generation who is jealously clinging to power long past his time instead of letting the next generation take charge. If we had more 30 or 40 somethings in power it would be really easy to start making significant changes for the better. It’s a shame people like him, or those from his generation who complain about bikes at community board meetings, are making it worse for everyone.

  • Ed Ravin

    has anyone noticed that Parks is still blockading Joe Michael’s mile on weekends? I was just there on Sunday and the same fence that was locked on Sunday Sep 10 was shackled again, and once again, no detour signs.