Eye in the sky: Manhattan Beachers seek cameras to slow down traffic

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Manhattan Beach residents say they have found the silver bullet in the quest to stop speeders along Oriental Boulevard: an electronic eye in the sky.

Members of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association say they want the state to fast-track a law that would allow the city to use high-tech cameras to ticket speeders zipping by on the street dubbed “Oriental Autobahn” by neighbors fed up with speeders heading down the straightaway that leads to Kingsborough Community College.

Neighbors think drivers would think twice about speeding if they were to get a ticket — without being pulled over by a cop — every time they broke the speed limit, and a great place to test their theory is on Oriental between Kingsborough and West End Avenue.

“It’s time to slow drivers down,” said association president Alan Ditchek. “Anything that prevents speeding on Oriental Boulevard would be helpful.”

The so-called speed cameras determine a cars speed by using electronic detectors embedded into the street and a camera high above it. If a motorist is speeding, the camera automatically takes pictures of the car and its license plate, then sends the car’s registered owner a ticket and photos of the infraction.

The plan requires state approval because the speed readers aren’t allowed in New York. But that could change if an Assembly bill that will allow 40 cameras to be installed in the city becomes law.

Under the law, speeding motorists would be fined $50 for driving up to 10 miles-per-hour over the speed limit, $75 for going 10–30-miles-per-hour over the speed limit, and $150 for driving faster than that.

The city would choose where to place the devices, said the bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D–Staten Island).

Critics of this type of Big Brotheresque enforcement have long-argued that the cameras are unreliable, infringe on civil liberties and unfairly tax car-owners who get nailed with fines.

But supporters contend they add revenue and avoid accidents by reducing speeding.

Community Board 15 rejected a proposal to lobby for speed cameras for the entire district earlier this year, but residents of Manhattan Beach said they would push to bring some to Oriental Boulevard.

“We’re going to petition to get them [if the bill passes],” said Edmond Dweck.

But Titone acknowledged so far his legislation hasn’t gotten out of first gear.

“This is a real safety initiative,” Titone said. “But we haven’t had an opportunity to prove that.”

The cameras have been adopted in 12 states and cities like Washington D.C. and Chicago.

And there is no doubt that the use of cameras to catch drivers when they are breaking the law is a cash cow for the city.

The city’s 150 red light cameras issued 1,053,268 violations last year, hauling in $50 a ticket, for a total of $52.7 million from the red-light program in 2010.

That’s a lot of money, but the city says it’s goal is to enforce the law.

“The Department of Transportation supports the use of cameras to enforce speeding,” said the spokesman, Monty Dean.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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