A push to install speed cameras in New York City has gone to the watery grave that is the Albany legislature. There was hope that the initiative would be included in the budget lawmakers are expected to approve this week, but hope, in the state capitol, is the thing with feathers covered in sticky tar. Mayor Bloomberg and the DOT pushed hard to get the speed cameras approved, pointing to 274 traffic deaths in the city in 2012—the highest in four years. But several key state senators were able to slam the brakes.
At a press conference yesterday, Bloomberg unloaded on three State Senators: Dean Skelos, the Republican majority leader; Simcha Felder, a Republicrat; and Martin Golden, a Brooklyn Republican. The Times reports that Bloomberg instructed New Yorkers to call those three politicians the next time a speeding driver kills a child and "ask why they allowed that child to be killed? Maybe you want to give those phone numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed. It would be useful so that the parents can know exactly who’s to blame."
Speed camera opponents argue that the technology is "unreliable" and not proven to reduce speeding. And the NYPD union is opposed because it says "speed cameras are no substitute for live policing." But speed camera advocates argue that the NYPD doesn't do enough to police speeding in NYC, and the DOT points out that speed cameras have been installed in over 100 cities including Washington, D.C., where speeding at camera locations had dropped dramatically since the cameras were installed in 2001. NYC is currently authorized to use just 150 red-light cameras citywide.
Senator Felder was offended by Bloomberg's heated rhetoric, telling the Times the mayor's comments were "inflammatory, reckless and out of touch, as usual.” Felder also locked horns with the mayor yesterday for one new measure that will make it into the state budget, thanks to Felder and Golden: a provision that will provide extra busing to Yeshiva students at taxpayer expense.
The change will require buses transporting late afternoon students at private schools to stop very close to their homes, instead of a quarter-mile away, as was previously required. The vast majority of these students attend Yeshivas, and the Daily News reports the new rule will require twice as many stops as before. Critics say the change is a sop to ultra-Orthodox Jewish constituents, who typically vote as a bloc—Bloomberg described it as "pandering to a particular political constituency."
"Make no mistake about it," Bloombeg told reporters yesterday. "If we have to provide extra busing, that money's got to come from someplace, and so we'll have to take busing away from some of the people that currently have it." Of course, Bloomberg knows a thing or two about "pandering to a particular political constituency." The Orthodox community in South Williamsburg was instrumental in his third term election win, and in exchange the DOT sandblasted a controversial section of bike lane on Bedford Avenue.