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State legislature votes to add 120 speed cameras on city streets

Slow down for schools, say New York State legislators.

The state Senate, at the end of April, overwhelmingly approved a bill that will turn 20 speed cameras currently operating near schools in the city into 140.

“Speeding is one of the primary causes of pedestrian fatalities, and addressing this epidemic has been a priority for my administration from the beginning,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of the bill, passed by the Senate after it had been approved by the Assembly and slated for signature by Governor Andrew Cuomo. “We can no longer accept these fatalities as inevitable.”

De Blasio cited the bill as a life-saver, adding that the city of New York is now one step closer to the expansion of school slow zones throughout the city where speed cameras can be installed.

“[This is] allowing us to protect our children and make our streets safer,” he said.

Ridgeites agreed.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Stefania Vasquenz, a local resident, parent and advocate with Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe (BRAKES). “Even [Police] Commissioner [William] Bratton said that the police can’t be everywhere all the time, and this is a good substitute to catch speeders because there’s not enough police on the force to be at every corner.”

Vasquenz said she’s sick and tired of dodging speedy drivers every weekday morning.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “I walk to school nearly every day and it’s not fun almost getting hit by drivers with my kids by my side.”

The bill is intended to make roads surrounding schools safer by supplementing the enforcement of local police departments with high-tech speed cameras to track speeding vehicles.

According to the office of Assemblymember Rhoda Jacobs, the process for selecting speed camera locations will be handled by the city with input from the community. Speeding drivers caught on camera will be subject to a fine of up $50.

“Speed cameras are a viable solution to help reduce traffic fatalities and crack down on reckless drivers, especially in school zones,” said Jacobs. “Passing this legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our children as they travel to and from school.”

State Senator Marty Golden addressed concerns that the bill would be a “money grab.”

“We’re working with the governor to assure that the money will be dedicated to public safety,” he explained. “That money would go to school safety zones and to police and fire. I think it’s a good outcome for our city.”

Still, not all electeds are on board with the vote.

“Less than a year after 20 speed cameras were placed throughout New York City as a pilot program, another 120 cameras are being added without the prerequisite study of the pilot program’s results being made public,” contended Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. “I am of the opinion that speed cameras are a poorly-veiled attempt by city government to generate revenue and fine residents without due process.”

Instead, Malliotakis said, the city should focus primarily on the expansion of community slow zones – including signage, flashing lights and speed bumps – around schools and senior centers.

“Additionally, we should support the City Council’s efforts to add another thousand police officers onto city streets,” she said.

Meanwhile, Transportation Alternatives – a New York City non-profit for safer streets – lauded the legislature, calling the speed cameras a “life-saving technology.”

“As a next step, we call on Albany lawmakers to allow these automated enforcement cameras to be deployed anywhere in New York City – not just in school zones,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, stressing that the cameras also need to be operational 24/7.

“Finally, we need the state legislature to give us the right to lower New York City’s speed limit to a safer 20 mph,” White went on. “If we’re going to achieve Vision Zero, we need to have control over our own streets.”

Piggybacking on de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, lawmakers are also expected to approve an amendment to the bill that would grant revenue generated by the cameras to be used towards public safety initiatives.

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