At a press conference held to excoriate the Trump administration for its woefully inadequate response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Governor Andrew Cuomo said there wasn't much he could do to force the Republican-controlled State Senate to save New York City's school zone speed cameras, which officially expire at 5 p.m. today.

"They refused to extend the speed cameras for months, and months, and months, in Albany, or they wanted some backroom deal trade, for yeshivas, something," the governor said. "The bill is on their desk, the Assembly passed it. Just go back to Albany and pass the bill you refused to pass. You don't need a special session, you don't need a lightning bolt from heaven."

While the governor cannot summon lightning, he can order the Senate back to Albany for a special session, forcing Senate Republicans to either vote to pass the legislation or risk looking petulant or reckless. There is also the possibility of issuing an executive order, something that Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte asked the governor to do at a press conference yesterday on Staten Island.

"I'm gonna actually call on Governor Cuomo to even supercede, and call for a special session, call for a special session, or write an executive order, because our children matter, we have to save our children's lives," Bichotte said.

Asked about a possible executive order today, the governor replied, "That is something that we are looking at, but, the simplest way to do this, cleanest way to do this is a state law."

"There's no need for me to do anything but sign the bill once they pass it," Cuomo said.

Last week, the governor's office said that using his executive power to call for a special session would result in a waste of taxpayer money and cause a “circus” in Albany, without guaranteeing the passage of the legislation.

The governor's remarks angered safe streets advocates.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement yesterday saying that the speed cameras “will go dark as a result of Governor Cuomo and the Assembly’s unwillingness to engage senators with a larger vision for street safety to protect children."

Cuomo compared this to "yelling at the person in the mirror."

"It is them. This is like me saying, 'I call on Governor Cuomo to sign the bill as soon as it's passed.' OK. I am Governor Cuomo, right? Call on myself. The Senate Republicans do not want to pass the bill. They don't wanna say that. But they don't want to pass the bill."

The governor also blamed Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden, who said last week he was "involved in negotiations" to bring the Senate back to Albany.

"Senator Golden says well, I'm gonna call Senator Flanagan. They are part of the same conference," Cuomo said. "If Senator Golden wanted to pass the bill you know what would happen? Senator Golden would pass the bill, because it is about his district. Senator Flanagan is in Suffolk County...It's all about Senator Golden."

A spokesman for Golden responded that the Senator wants Cuomo to call a special session.

"Governor Cuomo owes it to all of us to call the Legislature back, have us pass the bill, and sign it into law before someone is hurt, or God forbid, killed,” Golden said in a statement.

Spokespeople for Flanagan and the Republican Senate majority did not return our requests for comment. Nor has the office of Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, who gives the Republicans their one-seat majority, and has sought to tie the speed cameras to funding police officers in schools.

Streetsblog has noted that the NYPD's biggest union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which opposes the cameras, has donated $68,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and $48,000 to the governor since 2015. NYPD officers who are caught speeding by a camera cannot talk their way out of a ticket.

WNYC's Jessica Gould asked the governor if he thought the PBA's opposition to speed cameras had anything to do with the Republicans' resistance. "I don't know their position," the governor replied.

The PBA has not returned our phone messages, but in a written statement, PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said, “Speed cameras will certainly raise revenue for the city but they cannot do the job of a live, professionally trained police officer who, having stopped a speeder, may make an arrest for driving under the influence, driving without a license or insurance or even worse offenses like carrying an illegal weapon... The city would be better served and public safety could be vastly enhanced by hiring more police officers and assigning them to traffic enforcement.”

The speed cameras have been shown to reduce speeding by 63 percent and pedestrian injuries by 23 percent; 40 of the 140 cameras are mounted on mobile units, and this afternoon the City's Department of Transportation will roll them into storage. The rest of the cameras will remain in place and turned on to record data, not issue summonses, the mayor's office said today.

[UPDATE] Scott Reif, a spokesman for the GOP Senate majority, sent us this statement:


Our Senate Majority cares deeply about the safety and well-being of students and pedestrians, and we remain open to having discussions to resolve this issue in a positive way. Thus far, the Governor and Assembly have been unwilling to engage in those discussions, and as a result have put the speed cameras in jeopardy. In fact, the Governor never even sent us a straight extender of the program until after the Assembly packed up and left town in June. How serious was he about getting a result? We urge the Governor and Assembly to reconsider their hard line position and work with us to find a solution that keeps all New Yorkers as safe as they can be.

The spokesman for Assembly Majority Leader Carl Heastie responds: