State Sen. Martin Golden has expressed his support for speed cameras on city streets on numerous occasions, but a group of protesters challenged the Bay Ridge lawmaker to “not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”
In a protest organized by two groups, Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, demonstrators walked around the block where Golden’s district office is located, 7408 Fifth Ave., 70 times on Aug. 2 to show that the fight to get speed cameras turned back on is a marathon and that they have the stamina to keep up the effort.
“We will just keep pushing. We have the moral authority,” said Amy Cohen, a member of Families for Safe Streets. Cohen’s 12-year-old son Sammy was killed by a speeding driver on Prospect Park West in 2013.
The protesters were targeting Golden, Cohen said, because the Republican lawmaker is an influential member of the state Senate. “He can make it happen if he wants to,” she told this newspaper.
New York City’s speed cameras were deactivated on July 25 after a month of haggling and finger-pointing by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican leaders of the state Senate.
The cameras, which were installed on 140 streets located near schools, were erected in 2013 under a state-approved pilot program to combat speeding drivers. The cameras take pictures of the license plates of cars that are speeding. The state then mails a summons to the vehicle’s owner.
The cameras are an important deterrent to speeding, according to transportation safety advocates, who said the tickets drivers are hit with make them think twice when they get behind the wheel the next time. Incidents of speeding decreased by 63 percent on streets where the cameras were located, safety advocates said.
The pilot program expired on July 25. During the recently-completed legislative session, the Democratic-led state Assembly approved a bill that would have kept the cameras operating until 2022 and would have another 150 cameras to bring the total to 290.
But the GOP-dominated state Senate left Albany when the legislative session concluded at the end of June without taking a vote on the bill.
Prior to the July 25 cut-off date, Cuomo called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Golden to pressure their fellow Republicans to return to the state capitol to vote to pass the bill.
The state legislature is on summer hiatus.
“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 said in a statement.
Golden fired back, saying that it was the Democratic governor who had the power to compel the Senate to return to Albany and charged that Cuomo refused to do it. Golden is a co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would put 290 cameras on the streets.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, a Democrat representing Coney Island, Gravesend and portions of Bensonhurst, who supports reinstating the cameras, wrote on his Facebook page that while the governor has the power to force the Senate to return to Albany for an emergency session, he cannot force members to take a vote on a bill. That’s Flanagan’s job, Treyger wrote.
The political finger pointing is growing tiresome, according to Dana Lerner, who took part in the walk-protest outside Golden’s office.
“He is passing the buck,” she said of Golden. “He could have brought everybody back to Albany if he wanted to. There is no excuse. People are getting killed and the politicians don’t care.”
Lerner, who is a member of Families for Safe Streets, lost her son Cooper Stock in 2014. Cooper was crossing a Manhattan with his father in 2014 when he was struck by a taxi cab driver. He was nine years old.
“The driver who killed my son is still driving. All he got was a ticket,” she said.
The protesters planned to be outside Golden’s office that day until 9 p.m.
This newspaper reached out to Golden’s office for a response. A spokesperson said he had referred the inquiry to the state Senate’s press office. Scott Reif, a spokesperson for senate Republicans, said the GOP has done all it can do. “Senate Republicans have already said very clearly we are willing to approve an extender that keeps the cameras on. The ball is in the Assembly and Governor’s court,” he said.