Speed camera advocates hold 24-hour vigil outside Golden’s office

June 29, 2018 Paula Katinas
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Transportation safety advocates fighting to keep speed cameras operating on city streets before a July 25 deadline turns the cameras off took their case directly to State Sen. Martin Golden by holding a 24-hour vigil outside the Republican lawmaker’s Bay Ridge office.

Members of Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives stood on the sidewalk outside Golden’s district office at 7408 Fifth Ave. starting at 9 a.m. on June 28 to put public pressure on Golden to convince his GOP colleagues to support speed cameras.

“He’s the target because he’s the one who can get it done. I don’t understand why he won’t,” Amy Cohen, a founding member of Families for Safe Streets, told this newspaper.

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Cohen’s son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was killed by a speeding driver on Prospect Park West five years ago. He was 13 years old.

Cohen was joined by Jane Martin-Lavaud, whose 24-year-old daughter Leonora was struck and killed on Avenue U five years ago.

“We’ll have someone out here all day. We’re doing this in shifts,” Cohen said.

A car parked on the street outside Golden’s office was adorned with photos of people who have been killed by speeding drivers. There was also a sign reading, “Tell Senator Golden speed cameras save lives.”

There are currently 140 cameras on New York City streets to catch speeding drivers. The cameras take picture of the vehicle’s license plate and the owner receives a summons in the mail.

But the cameras are there under a pilot program that was authorized by the state legislature in 2013 and expires on July 25. If no action is taken, the cameras will be turned off.

Prior to the end of the legislative session, the Democratic-dominated State Assembly passed a bill to extend the program for another few years and double the number the number of cameras currently on streets.

The Republican-controlled State Senate did not act, leaving the issue in limbo until the next session begins next January unless they return to Albany for an emergency session.

The cameras act as a deterrent to speeding because they hit drivers where it hurts, in the wallet, according to safety advocates.

The vigil took place in the wake of the release of a report issued by Transportation Alternatives and Councilmember Justin Brannan showing that drivers have killed nine children in traffic crashes so far in 2018. That’s the same number of children killed in all of last year.

A survey conducted by Transportation Alternatives found widespread public support for speed cameras.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents said they support the idea of installing more speed cameras near schools in addition to the 140 out there now. Of the 84 percent, 64 percent said they strongly favored the idea.

“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,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement.

In his statement, White pointed to media reports detailing how Golden’s car has been recorded by cameras speeding on several occasions.

Golden supports the idea of doubling the number of speed cameras, according to John Quaglione, his deputy chief of staff. “Additionally, Senator Golden supported the original legislation that established the 140 speed cameras for New York City,” Quaglione told this newspaper.

Golden also wants to beef up safety measures by installing more traffic signals and stop signs, Quaglione said. “Senator Golden’s legislation seeks to further secure school zones with additional markings, stop signs and safety measures. If anything, of all the proposals, Senator Golden’s bill would create the safest environment for students to travel in and around school zones,” he said.

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