A 24-hour vigil and protest is happening now outside State Senator Marty Golden's Bay Ridge office, with families who lost loved ones to reckless drivers calling on Golden and other senate Republicans to stop standing in the way of legislation aimed at reducing traffic deaths in New York City.
Led by Families For Safe Streets founder Amy Cohen, the demonstration follows the release of a new report from TransAlt and City Council Member Justin Brannan, which found that the city is on pace to see twice as many child fatalities in 2018 as the year before. As of this week, nine children under the age of 18 have been killed by traffic crashes on city streets—matching the total number of child deaths for all of last year.
Meanwhile, the New York State Senate ended their session last week without passing a bill to renew or expand the school-zone speed camera program—the single most effective measure to deter deadly speeding, according to safe streets advocates. Despite the fact that fatalities and serious injuries are down by 21 percent in the 140 school zones that got cameras in 2015, they will likely be turned off next month, unless senators return to Albany for a special session in the next few weeks.
For reasons both personal and political, Golden—the city's leading Republican—does not seem inclined to do that. As StreetsBlog notes, his Cadillac has been caught speeding in school zones three times in the last six months, and has racked up 14 violations since 2014. In 2005, he hit a 74-year-old pedestrian with his S.U.V. who died a few months later. And after he was confronted by a cyclist for driving in the bike lane last year, he allegedly used his parking placard to pose as a police officer and threaten to take the cyclist to jail.
Most recently, Golden joined State Senator Simcha Felder in calling for the cameras to be replaced with stop signs and traffic lights.
But Golden opposed the cameras even before he was caught speeding through school zones on a regular basis. His refusal to support the legislation back in 2015 was widely seen as a product of his close connection to the law enforcement lobby—specifically the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a major donor. The police union was, and is, the only group organized against the cameras, fighting them on the grounds that it should be cops, not cameras, that conduct traffic enforcement. (In other situations, PBA President Pat Lynch has argued that cops spend too much time conducting traffic enforcement.)
It seems possible that cops, like Marty Golden, are merely tired of getting caught by automated devices that don't distinguish between law enforcement officials and politicians from other reckless drivers.
"This is a crisis. Children are dying, and once speed safety cameras are switched off, drivers are going to be emboldened to break the law and endanger our kids," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "One has to wonder, where does a person find it in themselves to publicly oppose a solution that has proven time and again to reduce speeding, prevent crashes and save lives?"
Those attending the vigil say that Golden has not yet shown his face, and that staff members have locked the door to his office. Golden did not respond to our request for comment on whether he will support a return to Albany to pass the legislation. If the state senate does nothing, the speed cameras will be turned off on July 25th.