The 140 speed cameras around NYC schools that help catch dangerous drivers may be a thing of the past, because the State Senate's session ended yesterday without passing a bill to extend the program. NYC's speed cameras are controlled by Albany, and the Vision Zero initiative can only be saved if legislators go back to Albany for a special session.
State Senator Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) had co-sponsored the original 2015 bill, but didn't do much to get the extension passed in the Senate. Streetsblog notes that the "Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union that opposes speed cameras... has contributed nearly $20,000 to Golden’s campaign since the start of 2015."
The PBA, the NYPD's largest union, has given lavishly to state lawmakers and candidates, not just Golden. Streetsblog reports that since 2015, the PBA has contributed more than $400,000 "to candidates seeking state office and the party committees that support them." The union is worried that expanding speed cameras could cost traffic enforcement agent jobs, and in a statement this week, PBA President Pat Lynch called the cameras a “money-grab” and demanded funding for “NYPD’s traffic enforcement efforts, including reversing the 5,000-plus reduction in the NYPD’s uniformed head count since the early 2000s."
According to the Post, Golden had floated a compromise "to put warning lights and stop signs around schools to cut down on pedestrian deaths," which prompted Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), to say it gave a "false sense of security." Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), for his part, insisted on making any yes vote on speed cameras contingent upon his push for armed guards in schools.
Klein also lamented that the extension wasn't passed: "What we’re going to be doing, when we leave here tonight, is effectively ending the speed camera program in New York. I doubt we will be back… We will not have the 140 speed cameras that presently exist at schools all over the city of New York."
Democratic Assembly members blasted the Senate and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Long Island) for failing to act. Assembly member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) issued a scathing statement saying, "In a shocking display of callousness and disregard for human life, the State Senate has failed to extend New York City's speed safety camera program,. This life-saving program has been slowing motorists down in school zones since 2013, and due to dysfunction in the State Senate, will soon be terminated. I am beyond outraged that the Senate has chosen to play political games rather than protect our children as they walk to and from school."
Mayor Bill de Blasio added, "The New York State Senate failed the City of New York by not extending and expanding speed cameras in school zones. Playing political games with the safety of children is completely unacceptable and I urge Republicans in the Senate to follow the Assembly's lead and fix this before heading home for the year. We need to protect our children. We need to extend and expand school zone speed cameras."
Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy Cohen Eckstein was killed by a driver in Park Slope in 2013, said, "Four years ago I lost my son Sammy to a speeding driver. He would have graduated high school this week with his friends. Instead, I have been fighting ever since to make sure no one else has to lose their child. By refusing to even bring the bill with overwhelming bi-partisan support to a vote, Senator Flanagan and Senator Felder chose to ignore Sammy and have done an inexcusable act by condemning a life-saving program to death."
If the State Senate doesn't come back for a special session, the cameras will be turned off on July 25th. Tonight, a number of pedestrian advocacy groups, including Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and C.U.R.B. Speeding, are gathering outside Governor Cuomo's midtown Manhattan office (633 Third Avenue) to "decry the failure of the governor and the state Senate to pass a bill which would have reauthorized and expanded the city's speed safety camera program, and demand the senate take up this issue in a special session," a press release from Transportation Alternatives explained.
Transportation Alternatives also said, "In New York City school zones where speed cameras have been deployed, speeding dropped 63 percent and pedestrian injuries fell by 23 percent in the first two years. New Yorkers are demanding this life-saving technology be not only reauthorized, but also expanded to more school zones in the city. The bill in question, S6046-C, would continue the program until 2022 and allow the City of New York to expand the program from 140 cameras to 290."