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 capital 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 in 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 worse,” 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, a Republican representing southwest Brooklyn and 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 is facing increasing pressure from speed camera proponents and transportation safety advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to speak out.
Over the past several weeks, protesters have organized demonstrations outside his district office at 7408 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge and held press conferences in front of schools and at senior citizens centers to put pressure on him.
Advocates continued putting pressure on Golden on July 17 when a group led by Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives went to his district office to “deliver” 400 boxes of pudding mix.
It wasn’t a stunt, according to protesters who said they were serious.
Advocates said they were pleased by Golden’s recent statement, but added that “the proof is in the pudding” on whether the GOP senator will use his clout to push the Senate into action.
Joe Cutrufo, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, said it’s important to keep the pressure up.
“Senator Golden has stated his support for extending and expanding the city’s speed camera program but we have a few reasons to be skeptical about whether that support is sincere given that he has sponsored a bill that would kill the speed camera program with just six months. When it comes to the senator’s support for speed cameras, we like to say that the proof is in the pudding,” he told this newspaper.
Blythe Austin, a volunteer with Families for Safe Streets, said people donated money to pay for the pudding to send a message to Golden.
“We need this to be his number one priority,” she said, referring to a bill to extend and expand the speed camera program.
“The vast majority of New Yorkers support speed cameras so this isn’t a partisan or controversial issue. We have Republican support even outside of Senator Golden. We are appreciative that Senator Golden expressed support last week for the program and now the message we are sending him is words aren’t enough. He is the most senior member of his party that represents New York City. This is a program that specifically applies to New York City and we need him to put action where his words are and get this bill passed and the vote upheld for New Yorkers,” Austin said..
Jane Martin-Lavaud, a member of Families for Safe Streets, came to Golden’s office clutching a photo of her late daughter Leonora, who was killed by a speeding driver at Avenue U and East Fifth Street in 2013.
“We’re hearing over and over again that Senator Marty Golden supports this measure and yet he introduced an opposing bill. And he’s still saying he’s for it. Our governor came in and said reconvene. We are waiting. If this is a program that has been shown to reduce speeding, do it already. We should have it on every corner, honestly,” she said.
John Quaglione, Golden’s deputy chief of staff, met with the pudding protesters and sought to assure them that the lawmaker is on their side.
“He’s calling for a vote and if there is a vote, he will vote for it,” he told the group.
Quaglione wrote on Twitter that the 400 boxes of will be donated to a food pantry.
Additional reporting by Jaime DeJesus.