Additional reporting by Katie Honan
Robocalls, automated texts, signs, billboards, mail advertisements and a slick website are all exhorting Greenpoint residents to “Keep McGuinness Moving” and prevent a redesign of the treacherous Brooklyn boulevard.
Three pedestrians have been killed in the last decade and hundreds of pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and passengers have been injured on the designated truck route.
A petition highlighted on that site, opposing the city Department of Transportation proposal to add protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands, while cutting its four motor vehicle traffic lanes down to two, has collected 3,500 signatures.
The reconstruction of McGuinness Boulevard “will push jobs out of Greenpoint,” the site says, while claiming the plan is backed by companies like Uber and Amazon and local politicians repaying donors, “not by longtime residents and ordinary citizens of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.”
The Keep McGuinness Moving petition effort appears to have significant ties to the powerful and politically connected Argento family, which owns the film production company Broadway Stages and many other commercial properties around the neighborhood, reporting and a review of records by THE CITY shows.
Broadway Stages was founded by Anthony Argento, who goes by Tony, in 1983 and later grew to involve his sister, Gina. It claims more than 60 soundstages where dozens of popular television shows and movies are shot, from “Blue Bloods” and “Law and Order” to “Nora from Queens.”
Yet Broadway Stages has kept a low profile in the Keep McGuinness Moving effort, with its name buried among more than 180 businesses who oppose the redesign.
But of the 59 corporations on that list, 37 can be traced back to Broadway Stages and the Argentos, according to a review by THE CITY of property and business registration records.
That includes 34 limited liability companies registered to the Broadway Stages headquarters at 203 Meserole Ave, along with three others that share an address with the law office of John Ciafone, who is married to Gina Argento. THE CITY could not identify any property or business records for another 15 of the LLCs.
[After this story was first published, the list was taken down and replaced by a message saying that its removal was “[d]ue to harassment and the unanimous concern for safety,” and that “anyone interested in a copy of the list can reach out via email.”]
Broadway Stages also provided one of its warehouses to host a town hall meeting opposing the redesign in mid-May, with another event planned for the same location on Thursday morning.
The Argentos are longtime supporters of Mayor Eric Adams, dating back to his successful borough president run in 2015. Gina, brother Tony and his son Anthony have given a combined $15,100 to Adams over the years, including $6,100 for his 2025 reelection bid, campaign finance records show.
Gina Argento was also a loyal financial supporter of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising efforts. Argento’s $60,000 donation became the subject of a federal inquiry into de Blasio’s fundraising practices through the now defunct Campaign for One New York.
After the state ethics commission issued a subpoena seeking documents from Broadway Stages, the company sued seeking to quash the demand. But a judge, and then an appeals court, both decided against Argento.
Catalyzed by a Killing
Neighborhood residents and advocates of the street redesign are concerned the last-minute campaign will derail months of grassroots organizing for a safer street.
“It’s basically coming out in support of a culture which sacrifices our neighbors to death and injury by cars,” said Bronwyn Breitner, 45, a mother of two kids at P.S. 110. She started organizing with the group “Make McGuinness Safe” after the 2021 hit-and-run killing of pedestrian Matthew Jensen, 58, a teacher at her kids’ school. “They’re prioritizing their profits over the safety of our community.”
Breitner contested Keep McGuinness Moving’s claim that efforts to redesign the street were bankrolled by outside corporate interests, or anyone.
“I’m just a mom and my son’s teacher was killed and I give a shit,” she said.
Tony’s son Anthony Argento, who runs a Greenpoint film facility called Rollin Studios, confirmed to THE CITY that his family was behind the effort to stop the street redesign, which he said was also backed by several trucking companies.
“We’re a pioneer,” Anthony said on Monday. “We’re not the only ones.”
On Tuesday, Broadway Stages sent a statement confirming the Argentos’ involvement with the campaign, and saying the company was collaborating with other neighbors and businesses that would be adversely impacted by the changes.
They share concerns about slowing down truck traffic, the impact on the local film industry, and traffic being pushed off McGuinness onto residential side streets, the statement said.
“For 40 years, we have actively supported initiatives that bring equity, inclusion, and well-being across the communities where we operate,” Tony Argento said in that statement. “We welcome the opportunity to find the right road diet that meets our mutual goals — the safety and long-term economic prosperity of our community.”
Anthony, an Astoria resident, said in an interview with THE CITY that he did not like the changes the city brought to 21st Street in his Queens neighborhood to reduce the number of traffic lanes and add a bus lane.
“Traffic in the morning and at the end of the day is 10 times longer,” said Anthony. “I don’t think having bicycles on the main road makes sense, especially on a truck route.”
Asked about who is financing Keep McGuinness Moving, Anthony demurred.
“There’s a lot of people behind it that I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know all the people from the movement. I’m not as politically intact as my father.”
Officials from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled their vision for McGuinness Boulevard at a Community Board 1 meeting in early May. The plan calls for reducing the four-lane street to two lanes and adding pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes, fortified by lanes of parked cars, to maintain street parking. It’s a similar redesign to those used at other dangerous locations across the city.
Assistant Civil Engineer Zach Wyche spoke on behalf of the DOT at the meeting, saying the DOT would take community feedback before finalizing its design and beginning to implement short-term traffic calming measures this summer.
The department’s presentation followed two years of advocacy after Jensen became the third person killed by a vehicle on the block in a decade. Between 2016 and 2020, 54 pedestrians and cyclists and 176 drivers and passengers have been injured along the 15-block stretch, according to DOT.
Every Greenpointer has a story about McGuinness Boulevard and how it has made their lives worse.
Kevin LaCherra, 32, a fourth-generation Greenpoint resident who spoke at the meeting, said his great-grandmother’s house was demolished to make way for McGuinness Boulevard, a Robert Moses-era shortcut between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway.
The redesign of the broad boulevard, LaCherra said, would help reconnect long-severed sections of residential Greenpoint.
“My dad used to have nightmares that I was hit and killed on McGuinness Boulevard,” he told THE CITY. “Every Greenpointer has a story about McGuinness Boulevard and how it has made their lives worse. This is the time. This is long, long, long overdue.”
As for the opposition, “one group is deciding they can get a veto,” LaCherra said. “They can direct tens and thousands of dollars and their staffers. It’s just not right.”
Others spoke out at the meeting in May against the plan — including Anthony Argento.
“This dieting of McGuinness Boulevard, it’s just gonna create a traffic havoc,” he said. “I think this will create total chaos.”
In a June 8 letter to DOT’s Brooklyn borough commissioner Keith Bray, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Peers pledged his support to a potential lawsuit opposing the city’s plans.
“The businesses that rely on free-flowing access to McGuinness Boulevard are not minor contributors to NYC’s and Brooklyn’s economy,” the letter says. “Broadway Stages for example, is one of the largest soundstage and film production facilities on the East Coast.”
Gina Argento is a member of the Chamber’s board of directors.
“NYC DOT is dedicated to enhancing the safety of critical transit arteries like McGuinness Boulevard,” said department spokesperson Mona Bruna, adding that the agency is moving ahead with the redesign while continuing to gather community feedback.
Bike Lane Goes Bust
Several Greenpoint residents noted the Argentos’ earlier opposition to a bike lane in the neighborhood on Monitor Street, which seemed to conflict with the company’s long-standing plan to close off Monitor Street.
That plan, presented to CB1 by attorneys working for Broadway Stages in 2020, was to allow Broadway Stages to link several adjacent properties and create a closed campus, blocking off the two streets to traffic.
Any excess traffic from those street closures could have been redirected to McGuinness Boulevard, a letter from a Broadway Stages attorney to the community board argued at the time.
Gina Argento, who also sits on the community board’s transportation committee, was furious about the DOT’s plan.
“There’s no way you can put a bike lane there and not have injuries and fatalities,” she said at a community board meeting.
CB1 member Ryan Kuonen asked if Argento’s opposition was related to Broadway Stages’ efforts to create a campus there.
“We’re still not sure about that,” Gina Argento replied. “What we’re concerned about is safety.”
“Bike lanes keep people safe,” Kuonen shot back. “If safety is the issue, I don’t understand how bike lanes make it unsafe for people.”
Gina’s brother Tony also pushed back on the plan, complaining that “as a major taxpayer in the neighborhood, there’s no reach-out to us.”
The siblings then orchestrated a letter-writing campaign, according to Breitner, who also sits on the board’s transportation committee, and the project died on the vine. More than a year later, there’s still no bike lane.
“The whole thing got tabled and as far as I know it’s been abandoned,” Breitner told THE CITY last week. “It just went away.”
Monitor Street became the site of another fatal crash last month, when 73-year-old cyclist Teddy Orzechowski was hit by an SUV. He died from his injuries three weeks later.
“Any accident that involves a fatality is tragic,” Gina Argento said in a statement about the Monitor Street bike lane.
“Bike lanes have a place in our community,” she continued, “but it needs to be part of a larger city-wide strategy that makes sense for everyone in the community — businesses, residents, and cyclists alike.”
A DOT spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the Monitor Street bike lane.
In the meantime, Greenpoint residents are still getting mailers sent to their doors, texts and robocalls on their phones, while signposts around the busy boulevard are covered with posters urging residents to “Keep McGuinness Moving.”
They seem to reappear as quickly as local activists can tear them down.