Two women who lost loved ones in accidents came to the Lodge Senior Center in Bensonhurst on Wednesday, June 27 to demand that the State Senate pass legislation allowing the city to install hundreds of speed cameras in school zones.
Joan Dean, a member of the grass-roots organization Families for Safe Streets, lost her 13-year-old grandson, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, five years ago. Young Sammy was just two weeks away from his bar mitzvah when he was struck and killed by a speeding driver on Prospect Park West in 2013.
Hindy Schachter’s 75-year-old husband Irving was killed while training in Central Park for the New York City Marathon in 2014. A speeding bicyclist ran him over. Schachter fell to the pavement, hit his head, and died.
“It’s hard to get into this group,” Dean said sadly, referring to the people who have lost relatives in accidents.
A 2013 state law that placed 140 speed cameras on city streets as part of a pilot program expires July 25. The state legislature wrapped up its legislative session without taking up the speed camera issue. Prior to the end of the session, the state Assembly had passed a bill to extend the program for another few years and double the number the number of cameras.
The State Senate did not act, leaving the issue in limbo until the next session begins next January. Transportation safety advocates said they want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call the legislature back to Albany for an emergency session.
Dean and Schachter stood in the Lodge Senior Center at 7711 18th Ave. and implored the Senate, and State Sen. Marty Golden in particular, to take action.
Speed cameras near schools help all pedestrians, not just students, advocates said.
“I’m a senior citizen. I want to be able to cross the street safely,” Dean said.
Without speed cameras, “there is a lack of enforcement,” Schachter. She noted that Republicans in the senate have pushed an alternative idea to install more traffic signals and stop signs in lieu of cameras. “Nobody says get rid of stop signs. Nobody says get rid of red lights. But we need more,” she said.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, who organized the press conference, said cameras have proven to be effective.
Incidents of speeding at the intersection of Cropsey Avenue and Bay 35th Street dropped by 59 percent after speed cameras were put in, according to Treyger, who noted that Joseph B. Cavallaro Intermediate School is located nearby. At 16th Avenue and 65th Street, where Edward B. Shallow Intermediate School is located, pedestrian injuries dropped by 40 percent.
Treyger called on Golden “to lead and to act.”
Golden’s car has been caught speeding on numerous occasions, according to various media reports.
Donna Corrado, commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging, noted that Golden represents the section of Bensonhurst where the Lodge Senior Center is located and said he secured state funding for the facility.
“We are not here to judge him,” Corrado said, adding that Golden often visits senior centers and brings bagels. “It’s not enough to give us bagels,” she said. “Give us our lives back.”
John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to Golden, said the criticisms leveled at the senator are wrong.
“Senator Golden is a co-sponsor of the legislation that will double the number of speed cameras in New York City to 290 and Councilman Treyger knows that,” Quaglione said. “Additionally, Senator Golden supported the original legislation that established the 140 speed cameras for New York City. 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.”
Quaglione also defended Golden against the bagel blast from Corrado.
“In the more than 15 years that I am working with Senator Golden, he has never once brought bagels to a senior center. But I can tell you that Senator Golden has delivered key funding for senior programs, created Granny’s Law to better protect our elderly, and has led efforts that have made more seniors eligible for the EPIC prescription drug and the SCRIE rental assistance programs,” he said.