Councilmember Brad Lander was along five people arrested at a protest outside the Bay Ridge office of a fellow lawmaker on June 29.
The Park Slope Democrat had joined members of the group Families for Safe Streets for the latter part of a 24-hour vigil in front of State Sen. Martin Golden’s district office at 7408 Fifth Ave. to demand that the Republican lawmaker do more to push for legislation that would keep speed cameras in New York City school zones.
Many of the members of Families for Safe Streets have lost loved ones in car crashes involving speeding drivers.
A speed camera bill died when the state legislature finished its session in June.
On Friday, Lander and the other protesters stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue, held hands, and blocked traffic, the New York Post reported.
Lander was taken into custody on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. He was issued two summonses, according to the Post.
“I don’t take civil disobedience lightly. But sometimes it is necessary to bring attention to grievous wrongs,” Lander said in a statement.
The protesters, many of whom had been outside Golden’s office since Thursday morning, demanded that Golden — a Republican who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and Manhattan Beach — return to Albany and use his influence in the Republican-led Senate to push for a vote on a bill that would keep the speed cameras in place.
“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 on Thursday.
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 145 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 2018. That’s the same number of children as were killed 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.
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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lander has introduced a bill called the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, which would boot the cars of drivers deemed to be dangerous.
Quaglione dismissed Lander’s arrest as a publicity stunt.
“Clearly by emailing reporters, Councilman Lander has confirmed that his arrest was more about getting publicity and less about supporting speed cameras. I am sure Councilman Lander knows that Senator Golden was a key vote for the legislation in 2013 that authorized the original 145 speed cameras for New York City. And I would imagine that Mr. Lander also knows that Senator Golden is co-sponsoring legislation that will double the number of speed cameras to 290,” said Quaglione.
“Senator Golden is strongly advocating for the Senate to return to Albany to approve this measure,” Quaglione added.