Unless Albany re-authorizes them, New York City’s speed cameras will go dark in two weeks, and Republican State Senator Marty Golden—who has recently been targeted by safe streets protesters—now says he’s done sending mixed signals.
Golden is calling on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the Senate for a special session before the city’s right to operate the cameras expires.
“Anything short of a vote by the Senate before July 25th, to support the continuation and expansion of speed cameras throughout New York City, would be an unacceptable failure for the people of New York,” Golden said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“There is no backup plan,” Golden later told Gothamist/WNYC. “I’m hoping that between the governor and the Senate itself, I’m sure somehow we’re going to wind up back in Albany shortly.”
The issue is one of the main loose ends from the 2018 legislative session, which ended on June 20th. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also asked the Senate to reconvene to pass legislation that would protect women's reproductive health from what is likely to be a deeply conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Golden and his fellow senators, Republican Andrew Lanza and Democrat Simcha Felder, first opposed a bill that would have expanded the number of speed cameras, and then offered an alternative that would require the city to install signs notifying drivers where speed cameras are in use, double speeding fines around schools, and erect 1,000 new stop signs or traffic signals in school zones. (Felder also wanted the money from speed cameras to go towards paying for armed police officers outside schools.)
All three have criticized the program repeatedly over the years. They say speed cameras are relatively toothless—if not downright unfair—because cameras don’t identify and penalize drivers. They only issue speeding tickets to vehicle owners, based on pictures of license plates.
The cameras issue $50 tickets to drivers who speed in school zones during school hours and have reduced speeding by 63%, according to a DOT study. Golden has incurred numerous speeding tickets, including 14 speed-camera violations in school zones since 2014.
Felder has called the cameras a cynical ploy “to fill the city's coffers." He and Golden have said they don’t believe the city’s data associating the cameras with significant speed reductions.
Safe streets advocates held vigils outside Golden's office last month, and some of them were arrested.
“Senator Golden recognizes the importance of the life-saving speed camera program and what it has done to save lives and slow down traffic,” Golden's statement said.
"We're pleased to see that Senator Golden has finally decided to heed the calls of his constituents, victims of traffic violence, and people from across New York City, who have put consistent pressure on him over the last several weeks to use his influence in the Senate to prevent the city's proven speed safety camera program from expiring," Paul Steely White, the executive director for Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement.
"But New Yorkers, of whom the vast majority support expanding the speed safety camera program, will not rest until the the Senate is reconvened and the Republican leadership guarantees a vote on S6046-C, which now has 34 co-sponsors—three of whom are Republicans. There is more than enough support to get the bill passed and on to Governor Cuomo's desk, but Senator Flanagan needs to let the New York Senate vote their conscience on this life-saving bill," White said. "Golden's legacy as an influential senator who prioritizes his constituents' safety depends on his ability to get the job done and convince Senator Flanagan to do the right thing. And we intend to keep the pressure on him until he does."
Flanagan’s office has not responded to repeated requests for comment. Candice Giove, a spokeswomen for the Senate majority, did not respond to a request for comment.