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Cuomo offers support in last-minute push to save speed cameras

July 20, 2018 By Paula Katinas and David Brand Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is mounting an 11th hour effort to convince the State Senate to return to Albany and approve legislation to keep speed cameras operating. Photo by Kevin Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently came to Dyker Heights to implore the state Senate to return to Albany and vote on a bill to keep speed cameras operating in New York City school zones, is mounting a last-minute push for the legislation with the July 25 deadline staring him in the face. 

“It is beyond the pale that Republicans in the state Senate refuse to support speed cameras in the face of overwhelming evidence that this technology saves lives,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The Senate Republicans are putting politics over the lives of children. The Assembly has passed the bill and the Senate Democrats support it. Now it’s up to Senate Republicans to decide whether young people live or die.” 

Speed cameras were installed in 140 locations in New York under a pilot program approved by the state Legislature in 2013. The pilot program, which was meant to last for five years, expires on July 25. If the senate does not take action, the cameras will be turned off. 

The speed camera bill has the support of Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, transportation safety advocates and numerous lawmakers from Brooklyn and Queens. State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), who was the target of numerous protest demonstrations over the past several weeks, recently announced that he would like to see Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan call the senate into session to take a vote. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) sponsored a bill to increase the number of speed cameras in school zones from 140 to 290.

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Yet, the legislation remains stalled.

In addition to blaming Senate Republicans for the impasse, many of the bill’s proponents pointed to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the police union, which is vehemently opposed to the bill.

PBA officials have stated publicly that instead of installing more speed cameras, the city should explore hiring additional cops.

PBA president Patrick Lynch charged that the cameras are “a money grab” for the city.

“New York City police officers want to make our streets safe for everybody who uses them, but automated traffic enforcement cameras are not the solution. Red light and speed cameras cannot do the job of a live, professionally trained police officer. They can’t take a drunk, unlicensed or uninsured driver off the road, and they won’t catch evidence of other crimes that might be apparent to a police officer conducting a traffic stop. But they are very good at one thing: stuffing the city’s coffers with additional revenue from fines,” Lynch said in a recent statement.

But a source close to Republican lawmakers told the Eagle that PBA isn’t responsible for the stalemate. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, placed the blame squarely at Cuomo’s feet.

“It’s Cuomo,” the source said, explaining that senators would be willing return to Albany to take a vote on the speed camera issue alone but that the governor is also insisting that the legislative chamber vote on other issues as well, including extending abortion rights.

Meanwhile, as the clock ticked toward the July 25 deadline, lawmakers and safety advocates were scrambling to move the issue forward.

During the legislative session, Peralta joined Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins at the state House for a press conference to demanding the bill’s passage.

On Friday, Peralta spoke of the urgency of the issue. “In just five days, school zone speed cameras will be turned off. Republicans decided to play politics with children’s lives, and a program that saved countless of lives will expire,” Peralta told the Eagle. “We cannot play politics with schoolchildren and New Yorker’s lives, and this is why we must ensure we renew and expand the program. If the Republicans let this initiative expire, kids in summer school will travel to and from school on more dangerous streets. The same will occur when more than one million schoolchildren return to school after the summer vacation.”

In his argument, Cuomo pointed to a flurry of statistics to back up his claim that the cameras save lives. In school zones equipped with speed cameras, crashes decreased by 15 percent, crashes in which injuries occurred dropped by 17 percent and fatalities decreased by 55 percent.

Grassroots activists have also criticized the way Republicans have framed their opposition to the bill.

On Thursday, a Senate GOP spokesperson told the Daily News that safety camera advocates were exploiting the “anguish” of families whose loved ones were killed in traffic accidents in order to “advance myopic vision for street safety.”

In response, Amy Cohen, a founding member of Families for Safe Streets, condemned the remark. Cohen lost her son Sammy to a speeding driver on Prospect Park West in 2013.

“As someone who knows all too well what is at stake in the fight to renew and expand New York City’s speed safety camera program, I was shocked and deeply offended that an official spokesperson for the New York Senate Republicans would deny our families’ agency to fight for the lifesaving technology that could have prevented the deaths of our loved ones,” Cohen said.


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