The State Senate should return to Albany immediately and take a vote to keep speed cameras operating on New York City streets, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during an appearance in Dyker Heights on Friday, July 13.
The State Legislature is on summer break and is currently not in session.
That doesn’t matter, according to the governor, who implored the Republican-controlled state senate to return to the State Capitol take care of the unfinished business of speed cameras.
“They have to go back and pass a speed camera bill. It’s all up to the Republican Senate. It comes down to a simple question of leadership,” Cuomo said.
The Democratic governor came to the Sirico Catering Hall on 13th Avenue primarily to discuss abortion rights but also discussed the issue of speed cameras.
There are currently 140 speed cameras in school zones around the city. The devices were put in place under a pilot program authorized by the legislature 2013. But the pilot program was meant to last only five years. It expires on July 25. If no action is taken by the state senate, the cameras will be turned off.
The Democratic-dominated State Assembly passed a bill authorizing the extension of the program to 2022. The senate, however, did not take a vote. “They refused to vote for it when they left,” Cuomo said.
The mounted cameras snap photos of the license plate of a speeding vehicle. The state then sends a summons in the mail to the vehicle’s owner.
The cameras act as an important deterrent to speeding because they hit drivers where it hurts, in the wallet, according to transportation safety advocates, who said incidents of speeding have decreased by 63 percent in areas that have the cameras.
Concerns have been raised, however, by some who oppose expanding the speed camera program. They charge that the cameras are part of a money grab that has the potential of raising money for the city.
Cuomo said it’s a matter of public safety.
“God forbid there is an accident and a young person is hurt or killed,” the governor said.
Cuomo insisted that the issue is in the hands of the senate. He does not have to call the senate into special session, he said. It’s up to the Republicans to make the decision to return to Albany to take a vote, he said.
Earlier in the week, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), an influential member of the senate, called on Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the senate and pass a bill to keep the speed cameras operating.
Golden faced increasing pressure from speed camera proponents and transportation safety advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to speak out.
Protesters organized demonstrations outside his district office on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge and held press conferences in front of schools and at senior citizens centers to put pressure on him.
“Senator Golden recognizes the importance of the life-saving speed camera program and what it has done to save lives and slow down traffic,” said the senator’s spokesperson, John Quaglione, who added that Golden also believes “anything short of a vote by the Senate before July 25, to support the continuation and expansion of speed cameras throughout New York City, would be an unacceptable failure for the people of New York.”