Facing a July 25 deadline for New York State to dismantle speed cameras on streets near schools, transportation safety advocates are stepping up the pressure against lawmakers they charged are standing in the way of an effort to keep the cameras operating.
State Sen. Martin Golden was the main target of a protest rally outside P.S. 215 at 415 Avenue S in Gravesend on July 5, the first day of summer school.
Golden has repeatedly stated his support for the idea of keeping the cameras working but leaders of organizations such as Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets claimed that the lawmaker isn’t doing enough. The protesters also carried signs imploring Senators Simcha Felder and Andrew Lanza to approve legislation to keep the cameras.
New York City needs the state’s permission to install speed cameras.
The cameras, which take pictures of the vehicle’s license plate so that the state can send the car’s owner a summons in the mail, allow technology to be used in place of police officers in some instances, although speed camera proponents said they are not advocating for cops to be replaced.
Legislation to keep the 140 speed cameras that are currently on New York City streets died when the State Legislature’s session ended last month.
A bill that would have not only allowed the cameras to keep going but would have doubled the number of cameras on city streets was approved by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly. It did not come up for a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate before the legislative session ended.
“There is no excuse not to pass this,” said Marco Conner, legislative and legal affairs director for Transportation Alternatives. Conner said his organization wants the legislature to go back into session to vote in a bill.
Alison Collard de Beaufort, founder of Vision Zero Youth Council, and a recent graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, told the rally’s attendees that she lost three friends in the space of 15 months to reckless drivers. “Our lives are on the line,” she said.
The cameras act as a deterrent to speeding because they hit drivers where it hurts, in the wallet, according to safety advocates, who pointed out that incidents of speeding have decreased by 63 percent in the areas that have cameras.
Organizers of Thursday’s protest said they deliberately picked the day after the Fourth of July holiday to hold their demonstration. July 5 marked the first day of summer school for thousands of New York City children.
To drive home their point, rally organizers brought a poster counting down the number of days, 20, until the cameras will be turned off.
“It’s imperative to take action before the program expires,” said Deputy Schools Chancellor Cheryl Watson-Harris.
“You can’t put an expiration date on a plan to keep families safe,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger.
There are signs that the fight over speed cameras is intensifying.
On June 29, Councilmember Brad Lander was along five people arrested at a protest outside Golden’s Bay Ridge district office. The protesters blocked traffic, police said.
The arrests took place at the tail end of a 24-hour vigil outside Golden’s office organized by Families for Safe Streets, a group whose members include New Yorkers whose relatives were killed by speeding drivers.
Golden’s spokesperson John Quaglione sent a statement to this paper following the P.S. 215 rally.
“Like those rallying today, Senator Marty Golden has been vigorous in his efforts to urge the State Senate to act before speed cameras go dark. As supporters and advocates continue to keep pressure on, they can be assured that they have an ally in Senator Golden, who like them, recognizes the importance of the life-saving speed camera program. That is why Senator Golden has co-sponsored the bill, S.6046-C, to renew and double the number of cameras to 290, and wants a vote on it before July 25,” Quaglione said.