A longtime fan of our website and chronic comment-section pot-stirrer showed his face in real life at a road-safety hearing last week and, true to form, what followed was controversial.
A man who shares a name the name with prolific BrooklynPaper.com commentator Tal Barzilai from PLeasantville, N.Y. made an in-the-flesh appearance at a Borough Hall meeting on Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths to zilch. Dedicated readers took to Twitter to voice their excitement at apparently seeing Barzilai, known for his lengthy, combative posts about why pedestrians and cyclists should face ramped-up traffic enforcement from police, at the Downtown event, 39 miles from his supposed Westchester County home.
“OMG he’s real!” road-safety advocate David Dartley tweeted during the meeting. “The man, the legend, Tal Barzilai.”
The online Barzilai’s provocations on the subject of bike-rider and walker accountability, opponents to which he regularly equates with apologists for the Palestinian political party Hamas, often drive Reader Feedback threads below Brooklyn Paper articles to more than 50 comments. Nor is his prolific output limited to this illustrious news website.
A commentator named Tal Barzilai has also spewed opinions in the comment sections of the WNYC and New York Times websites, so much so that copycats have popped up, according to one Tal-watcher.
“You never know if it’s the real Tal or one of his many doppelgangers,” said Park Slope road-safety activist Eric McClure, who encountered the apparent actual Barzilai at last Monday’s forum.
At the hearing, where Brooklynites were invited to sound off on Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero push to reduce traffic deaths to zilch by 2024, Barzilai took to the mic to repeat his call for a crackdown on human-powered commuters.
“I feel like Vision Zero only punishes one group only, which is the motorists,” he said. “I have been on a number of city streets, and I’ve seen more cyclists and pedestrians flouting laws than any motorist ever have.”
The provocateur added that some who have been run over and killed in recent years were at fault.
“I do give my condolences to those that were hit, but when I read the full review, some actually got hit by not looking,” he said. “I’m not saying that they meant to, but if they had taken some alertness, some of the accidents could have actually been avoided.”
But Barzilai is no one-issue pundit.
“He was a real stalwart during the Atlantic Yards saga,” McClure said.
For all his flame-fanning, the suburb-dwelling serial-screed-writer has never explained why he cares so much about what happens in Kings County.
Someone shouted down the real-life Barzilai during a 2006 hearing on the Atlantic Yards mega-development, telling him to “go back up to Pleasantville,” McClure said.
Brooklynite or no, Barzilai made some good points on the hot-button mega-development at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, in McClure’s estimation.
“His epitaph will read, ‘Here lies Tal Barzilai — so right about Atlantic Yards, so wrong about bike lanes,’ ” he said.
Barzilai left the Borough Hall hearing before we could talk to him. An online phone directory lists a Tal Barzilai in Pleasantville, N.Y, but he could not be reached for additional comment.