Smile for the camera, speed demons!

March 20, 2013 Denise Romano
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Last week, the City Council, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign announced that they would support state legislation that would authorize the installation of speed cameras in high-risk locations citywide as a pilot program.

The issue hits close to home in Bay Ridge, where in just a month, two pedestrians were seriously injured after being struck by speeding vehicles. On February 16, Matthew Garry, a Xaverian sophomore, broke both of his arms and legs and his pelvis when he was hit by a speeding car on Fourth Avenue and 78th Street. He luckily did not suffer any head trauma and is expected to recover after extensive rehabilitation and therapy. That vehicle did not stop and the case is still under police investigation.

On Wednesday, March 13, another pedestrian was struck on the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue. The driver was also speeding, but remained on the scene. That victim is also expected to recover.

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Under the state legislation, 20 to 40 stationary or mobile speed cameras would be installed citywide. The cameras would work much like the red-light cameras already in place; they would not photograph the driver or share the license plate number of the car.

Default penalties for speeding would be set at $25 with a maximum penalty of $50 for speeding between 10 and 30 miles above the speed limit and $100 for speeding over 30 miles above the speed limit.

“Just as red light cameras reduced infractions at intersections where they were installed, we anticipate that speed cameras will result in greater compliance with posted speed limits,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Advocates, including the Bay Ridge Democrats, say these cameras would work best on Fourth Avenue, where 63 percent of cars heading southbound speed, according to Department of Transportation data. DOT has also introduced an initiative to put cameras near schools and senior centers.

But some, including Councilmember Vincent Gentile, are saying that although installing cameras is a great idea, it’s not enough.

At the Community Board 10 meeting held on Monday, March 18, Gentile said he was introducing a resolution in the City Council to put at least 200 additional officers on the streets to “crack down” on speeding and reckless driving. He said that, while additional funds would be needed to implement the program, it would pay for itself with the tickets that are written.

“There are simply too many drivers speeding and not enough enforcement resources at this time,” Gentile said. “Whether it’s speed cameras, education programs, more cops or more enforcement – there is no single panacea. But something has to be done. Nothing can be left off the table when lives are at stake.”

Statistics show that police officers currently patrolling Bay Ridge streets are not aggressive ticketers. According to data from the Police Department, the 68th Precinct is in the bottom five when it comes to giving out speeding tickets, with only 63 tickets issued in 2012.

However, the neighboring precinct – the 62nd Precinct in Bensonhurst – is number three in speeding tickets issued, with 182 given out last year.

Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said that the board has not taken a position on speeding cameras. However, it did conduct a pedestrian safety report.

“We asked DOT to look at number of problematic locations. Speeding is a concern,” Beckmann told this paper.

Beckmann encouraged residents to attend the DOT Safety Visioning workshop on Thursday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. in P.S. 264’s cafeteria, located on 89th Street and Fourth Avenue.

“Input from the public is important in this program,” she said.

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