West Nile victim’s son criticizes Avella

West Nile victim’s son criticizes Avella
By Rebecca Henely

During a rally Sunday where state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Electchester) called upon the city to do more to fight West Nile Virus in the wake of a 70-year-old College Point woman’s death, the woman’s son accused the legislators of not doing enough.

“All they’re doing is sitting here and doing nothing,” said Francis Coppola Jr., whose mother Maria died in March due to complications from the virus.

Francis Coppola and his family have said in the past that their mother contracted the virus due to standing pools of water and unkempt foliage at a nearby business and have been planning legal action against a business and the city.

About 30 College Point residents and civic activists attended Avella and Simanowitz’s rally at the corner of 11th Avenue and 138th Place. The first incident of West Nile Virus in the United States occurred in 1999 and Avella, a city councilman at the time, said the city has been lax in preventing it. He said there were five deaths last year due to the virus.

“As the years have gone on, the city’s attention to this issue has significantly decreased,” Avella said.

The senator called upon the city to spray and put out larvicides to get rid of mosquitoes in a preventive as well as a reactive measure. He also demanded the city do educational outreach on the importance of getting rid of patches of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

Francis Coppola initially held up protest signs during the rally, but then told Avella as well as Simanowitz, that they had not really taken any action.

“Had it not been for me, there would have been no momentum,” Francis Coppola said.

The College Point resident also blasted the legislators for holding the rally at the same time as the Manhattan Pride Week festivities and one of Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) campaign events. The scheduling conflict is why some at the rally thought only one newspaper showed up on time to cover the event.

Francis Coppola also criticized Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who had an event in Douglaston around the same time, for not coming.

“I’m ambiguous now on who to vote for,” Francis Coppola said.

The son said he would be holding his own rally at a later date with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“He’s upset and that’s understandable,” Avella said. “We don’t have the power to snap our fingers and make it happen overnight.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.