The finger pointing has begun.
On the day speed cameras on New York City streets were due to be turned off, Republican and Democratic lawmakers turned on each other in a fierce effort to assess blame for the failure to keep the cameras operating.
State Sen. Martin Golden, a Republican representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and other southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, held a press conference in front of P.S. 185 in Bay Ridge Wednesday morning and called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call the state Senate back into session in Albany to take a vote to reinstate the cameras.
“It is the right thing to do. The governor can do this tomorrow morning,” Golden said.
Golden questioned why Cuomo won’t act. “The governor is using his bully pulpit for a whole host of things,” Golden said.
But Cuomo, who issued a statement even before Golden held his press conference, said that the Republican-led state Senate did not need him to go back into session. They could do that by themselves, he argued. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan can easily reconvene the Senate, according to Cuomo.
“Senator Golden and his conference are playing politics with the lives of children, and it’s transparent. I have said for weeks, there is no need for me to call a special session as the Assembly has already passed the bill during session,” Cuomo stated. “Here’s a tip for Senator Golden: Maybe he should hold a protest in front of Senator Flanagan’s office and demand he bring his own conference back to Albany to vote for speed cameras on the merits, like they should have done in June.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, concurred.
“Petty politics strikes again,” he said in a statement. “It’s hard to fathom what the state Senate is thinking but today they are responsible for speed cameras near schools being turned off. This shocking abdication of their duty to protect children is a disgrace and I fear there may be blood on their hands. We must do everything in our power to prioritize pedestrian safety and speed cameras are a proven way to do that. However, just because the state Senate failed us today, this does not mean they cannot go back to Albany and pass a new bill. It is, after all, their job.”
The speed cameras were due to be deactivated today, the deadline for the state legislature to pass a bill.
The cameras, which were installed at 140 locations near schools, were put in under a state-approved pilot program in 2013. The program expires today. The Democratic-led state Assembly approved a bill to keep the cameras operating until 2022 but the GOP-dominated Senate left Albany when the legislative session ended in June without taking a vote.
When asked about Cuomo’s statement, Golden said he was working to convince Flanagan to reconvene the Senate but that Cuomo could accomplish it with a single phone call to the majority leader.
Golden also announced that he had started an online petition drive to demand that Cuomo call the Senate back to Albany.
The petition can be found on Golden’s website at: www.Golden.nysenate.gov.
“Bring the legislature back to pass this bill, before another innocent life is needlessly lost. It is the right thing to do. You know it, I know it, the mayor knows it, and in his heart, the governor knows it,” Golden said.
State Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins, the Democratic leader of the Senate, charged that Republicans were failing to lead. “It is shameful that the Senate Republicans refused to reauthorize this life-saving program and have refused to return to Albany to take action,” she said in a statement.
The cameras snap pictures of the license plates of cars speeding through an intersection. The state mails a summons to the vehicle’s owner.
The incidence of speeding has decreased by 63 percent in areas where speed cameras are located, according to advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
Golden was met with protesters outside P.S. 185 who shouted at Golden about his speeding tickets. Golden’s car has been issued 10 speeding tickets since 2015, according to www.streetsblog.com.
With the cameras set to be turned off, lawmakers and transportation safety advocates are now turning their attention toward getting the devices turned back on before the start of school in September.
In an appearance on Staten Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio implored the Senate to reinstate the cameras.
“You know, again, kids are going to be in summer school over these next weeks. We need the speed cameras then. But schools, the regular school year is starting in about six weeks from now and then 1.1 million kids, going to school, coming from school every day, I can’t think of more urgency than that. We are all going to keep the pressure on the Senate until the job is done,” de Blasio said.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza called speed cameras “a simple fix” and asked lawmakers to take action. “Please, give us the tools to ensure our children are safe coming to school and going home after school,” he said.