Exclusive: State Senator Tony Avella and Challenger John Liu speak to EQGW

The Eastern Queens Greenway knows that a functioning democracy depends on informed voters. On July 24, 2018, we sent the below survey to the candidates running for New York’s State Senate seat for the 11th Senate District. We reached out to Tony Avella (D), John Liu (D), Simon Minching (R), and Vickie Paladino (R) multiple times and reminded them in person when we saw them in public.  Tony Avella and John Liu chose to complete the survey.  Below are the unedited responses we received from their staffs.

1) The Motor Parkway East project looks to connect the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway to Glen Oaks and Bellerose, opening up our parkland (like Alley Pond Park and Cunningham Park) to more neighbors. Do you support the plan, and if you do, how would you get it built?

Tony Avella: I authored the bill with Assemblyman Weprin asking State DOT to conduct a study to expand the parkway east,  the bill passed the Senate this year.

John Liu: John supports the Motor Parkway East project. The main issue is funding, which John would prioritize in the state capital budget.  In the near term, John would work with the Parks Dept to at least build a way for cyclists to safely get down to the street from the greenway’s dead-end at Winchester Blvd.  This project has dragged on for far too long and needs to be put on faster track.

2) There are no subway stops in our district, and our MTA bus service is slow or infrequent. It can take 2 hours for our neighbors to get to their jobs in Manhattan each morning and for our students to commute to school. What dramatic change would you advocate for to help our commuters?

Tony Avella: I have long advocated for legalizing sports betting as a way to increase funding for mass transit.  May finally happen.

John Liu: John supports congestion pricing, not simply to financially bail out the MTA, but to create a revenue stream that will be used to inject more mass transit options in transit deserts like northeast Queens.  Specifically, additional express bus lines should be established and operated, and better access to the LIRR should be provided to city residents through more frequent stops within city limits at lower fares.

3) What outdoor activities do you enjoy? (Walking, biking, hiking, swimming, bird-watching, kayaking, stargazing, etc.)

Tony Avella: Walking and hiking

John Liu: John enjoys on a regular basis running, biking, open-water swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, canoeing, skating (in-line), skateboarding, skiing (alpine), and snowboarding.  In his younger days John was a novice surfer.

4) How do you get around? Approximately how often do you use the following transportation options (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, never)? Personal/for-hire car, MTA bus, Subway, LIRR, Bicycle/bike-share

Tony Avella: use personal car for local trips and subway for trips into Manhattan

John Liu:

  • Personal/for-hire car – weekly although during this campaign it has necessarily been more often.
  • MTA bus – monthly
  • Subway – monthly
  • LIRR – monthly
  • Bicycle/bike-share – daily although during this campaign it has been less often (only to minimize excessive perspiration due to heat/humidity, and as a favor to large number of voters John comes into close contact with while campaigning).

5) The Kissena Way Project aims to connect the parks from Joe Michaels Mile to Alley Pond Park to Flushing Meadows/Corona Park. How would you work with other local politicians to create a continuous path so your constituents can enjoy more parkland in Eastern Queens?

Tony Avella: Would be happy to coordinate meeting on the subject

John Liu: John supports the Kissena Way Project and will work to secure necessary capital funding as well as designate space/routes. He wants to use existing rights of way as well as public land and park corridors (like Kissena Corridor) to ensure a continuous route through the parks wherever there is land to do so.  He has close relationships with all area electeds (which is why nearly every one has endorsed him) and will work collaboratively with them to see this project through. This would be great for constituents, but John and his family would love it as well.

6) What would you do improve our parkland? How would you make it safer and more accessible?

Tony Avella: More community input and increase funding.  Parks is continually shortchanged in the City budget

John Liu: Parkland should see more police presence, especially at night.  More accommodations for physical accessibility should also be built into our parks.  Operating funding needs to be secured for better upkeep and maintenance. Finally, there should be no alienation of parkland.  In fact, there are good opportunities to expand parkland, such as preserving some of the Creedmoor property as green space, completing Udall’s Cove land purchases, and restoring an old section of Motor Parkway that lays buried underground in Cunningham Park.

7) Several of our neighbors were killed in fatal traffic crashes in this district, including Madeline Shershen, Michael Schenkman, and Dorothy Heimann. What would you do to make our streets safer for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives?

Tony Avella: I authored long standing legislation to make it easier to obtain traffic signals, all ways stops and other traffic control measures and increase local input.  The City has never supported the bill. Shameful. 

John Liu: We can prevent more tragedies with the operation of more cameras to monitor traffic light, speed limit, bus lane, and other violations.  John will work to change public mindset that has historically termed these tragedies simply as accidents. It’s also time to consider speed limit hierarchies, with slower limits for more local streets


We very much appreciate Tony Avella and John Liu taking the time to share their thoughts on issues our community cares about.

Tony Avella
Tony Avella
John Liu
John Liu

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