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Out of the picture: Time runs out on city’s school-zone speed cameras

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Call them camera shy.

All 140 of the city’s school-zone speed cameras stopped doling out tickets on July 25, after state senators failed to vote on a new authorization in time, and a Park Slope mother whose son was killed by a speeding driver knows exactly who she blames: state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), who she said backtracked on a personal promise he made to her to get the bill passed.

“I hold Marty Golden personally responsible,” said Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets, who held an overnight vigil outside Golden’s office on June 28, demanding the Ridge rep push state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island) to call a special session to vote on a new speed-camera bill before the deadline passed. Now, she said, both men will have blood on their hands.

“Children will die, and he and Sen. Flanagan and the Republican leadership will have that on their conscience and be responsible for those deaths,”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the original speed camera legislation into law in 2013 as part of a five-year pilot program which expired on July 25. Supporters of the speed cameras called on the state Senate to preserve and expand the program by passing a bipartisan bill that would double the number of speed cameras citywide over the next five years, but the upper chamber ended its session on June 20 without even voting on the legislation after state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) — who caucuses with Senate Republicans — did not allow it to leave the Cities Committee, which he chairs.

Gov. Cuomo, Cohen, and other supporters of the cameras said that as the city’s most senior Republican state Senator, Golden — who historically flip-flopped on his position on the cameras — had the power to pressure Flanagan to reconvene the body before the July 25 deadline. Golden finally released a statement on July 11 calling on Flanagan to reconvene the Senate to vote to pass the bill, but only after he signed on to co-sponsor a separate bill that would mandate stop signs or traffic lights near school zones and only keep the cameras on for another six months.

Cuomo released a statement just a day before the cameras expired demanding that Golden take more direct action to get the bill passed.

“This is not an ideological issue — Sen. Golden and his conference are playing politics with the lives of children, and it’s transparent,” Cuomo said. “Here’s a tip for Sen. Golden — maybe he should hold a protest in front of Sen. 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.”

And a day later, when the cameras expired, Golden pushed the blame onto Cuomo in a press conference, calling on his constituents to sign a petition on his website demanding that Cuomo call both the state Senate and Assembly back to a special session.

“Gov. Cuomo owes it to all of us to call the legislature back, have us pass the bill, and sign it into law before someone is hurt, or God forbid, killed,” Golden said.

But Cuomo said it was pointless to call both houses back to session, since the Assembly already passed its version of the bill on June 18.

Flanagan and Felder did not respond to requests for comment.

Statistics prove that the cameras — which photograph drivers’ license plates and automatically issue $50 fines to speeders — do slow drivers down and improve safety. There were more than 60-percent fewer speeding violations in school zones with speed cameras in the two years after they were first installed in 2014, and a nearly 15-percent reduction in injuries in school zones with the cameras, according to a transportation agency report published last year. The city does not reveal the location of the current 140 cameras.

A spokesman at the mayor’s office said the city will still use the cameras to collect speed data, which it will compile and make available in a report in the coming weeks.

But Cohen said that now that the cameras won’t force speeding drivers to pay fines for driving too fast, she fears other parents will have to suffer the pain that she did when her 12-year-old son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was killed by a speeding driver near his Prospect Park West home.

“It is an unimaginable loss,” she said. “No one should have to bury their child.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, July 26, 2018
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Reader feedback

Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
First of all I'd like to say as a parent my heart goes out to the parents who lost a child by a reckless driver careless drivers. Having said that, as a longtime motorist in this city I feel pretty confident when I say that these speed cameras would've done very little to dissuade an dysfunctional driver from behaving the way he did.
I think speed cameras are a bad idea because our Mayor is creating an atmosphere in the city of overpopulation and congestion that creates frustration and anger that induces drivers to behave badly. I have done extensive driving outside this city and I have witnessed none of the recklessness and speeding that I see in this city. Our Mayor knows this and he just uses these cameras as a ploy to soak even more revenue out of the good citizens of this city. If you remember when he took office the speed limit was 30 miles an hour in the city and he reduced it by 5 mph and then install speed cameras. If Brooklynites remember the strategically placed camera on the belt Parkway service road near Ocean Parkway generated over 1 1/2 million dollars. It was finally removed when concerned citizens sued the city because the camera did not meet the criteria intended to end the law. Did this city voluntarily reimburse the motorists who would unfairly ticketed? No
July 26, 7:59 pm
Jeff from Bensonhurst says:
I have to agree with Bob. The speed cameras take a picture of the license plate of the car and then a $50 ticket is mailed to the owner of the car. The driver of the car is not penalized for speeding or charged with points on their driving license. It's a cash cow. Install speed bumps on all the streets surrounding the school, make them high enough so that cars MUST slow down to avoid losing control or damaging their cars. Prohibit all trucks from using any street that has a school.
July 27, 7:58 pm
Joe Pascarella from Mill Basin says:
Thank you Senator Marty Golden for letting those speed cameras expire. Speed cameras have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with squeezing more money out of the tax-paying citizens who drive. It is impossible to get from one end of this city to the other at 25 miles per hour. We may as well walk. The motorist has been abused for way too long. Transit Riders don't care how much the motorist is abused they have been leeching off the motorist for way too long.
July 28, 2:22 pm
Michelle Biller from Mill Basin says:
Joe, speed cameras will make driver think twice before speeding near a school and hopefully all over the NYC. If you do not speed you have nothing to be afraid of. Speed bumps are not a deterrent- only the cost of a ticket is. The public elementary school near my home has had many close calls with speeders when kids are coming to school. Kids have been injured and thank G-d all survived.
Aug. 3, 12:31 pm

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