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Speed Cameras Get Traction in Albany, But Marty Golden Promises to Obstruct

Many of NYC’s streets are off-limits for speed cameras because of restrictions imposed by Albany. A new bill would provide much more flexibility. Video still: ABC7

Members of Families for Safe Streets are in Albany today to talk to state legislators about expanding NYC's automated speed enforcement program. After legislative leaders failed to advance a similar bill last year, this session it appears to have more traction.

The Daily News reports that Jeff Klein, who heads the Senate’s influential Independent Democratic Conference, is expected to co-sponsor a bill from Queens Senator José Peralta -- S6046 -- that would expand the number of speed cameras the city is currently authorized to use from 140 to 750. The Assembly version is sponsored by Manhattan rep Deborah Glick.

Mayor de Blasio has pledged to make improvements to the speed camera program an Albany priority this year.

Currently, Albany restricts speed camera use to school hours on school days, and limits placement to within a quarter-mile of a school entrance on the street that abuts the school. As a result, they are not allowed on some of the city's most dangerous streets, nor are they active much of the day. The bill, developed with input from City Hall, would allow speed cameras to be active seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and would expand the area cameras cover to a half-mile radius of "a school building, entrance, or exit."

State Senator Marty Golden
State Senator Marty Golden. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Notably, the cameras would not have to be placed on the exact same street as a school entrance, which are often on side streets and not the wide, high-speed arterials that pose the greatest risk to pedestrians.

While the bill would finally let the city place cameras in the areas near schools where they are most needed, it would also require signs within 300 feet of cameras notifying drivers they are in use. This could impede the city's flexibility to move the cameras around.

The bill would also extend the program, which is subject to a 2018 sunset clause, for five years.

DOT data show that speeding, the leading cause of fatal NYC traffic crashes, drops by 60 percent where cameras are deployed. Cameras are far more effective at catching speeding drivers than NYPD, and eliminate the potential for traffic stops to escalate into dangerous confrontations. Most New Yorkers, including most residents who own cars, support the speed camera program.

Albany lawmakers failed to pass legislation to expand the program in 2016, but Peralta told the News “it looks very promising” that his bill will get a vote this session.

First it will have to get by Marty Golden, the senior Senate Republican representing a district in NYC. Golden, who has close ties to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has consistently obstructed expansions of the speed camera program in the past. That hasn't changed this year, Ken Lovett at the Daily News reported:

Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) called the push for 750 new cameras, the expansion of the zone to half a mile from a school, and the proposed five-year length of the program “non-starters.”

“It’s laudable they want to slow traffic down,” Golden said. “We’ll look at the bill, but some of the proposals, my conference would never buy into it.”

With 1,800 schools and 6,000 miles of surface streets to cover, NYC's current allotment of 140 cameras just isn't enough to deter lethal driving speeds where people walk every day. Residents of Golden's district are just as vulnerable to reckless motorists as everyone else in the city. If he believes that slowing drivers near schools is a "laudable" goal, he'll drop the obstructionism and get behind expanding NYC's speed camera program.

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