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Locals and pols rally in Greenwood Heights demanding action on speed cameras

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They’re tired of all talk and no action.

The Republican-led state Senate must return to Albany and pass a bill to preserve and expand the city’s school-zone speed-camera program, according to a group of local pols, officials, and activists who gathered outside MS 88 in Greenwood Heights on Aug. 8.

Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D–Park Slope) said that speed cameras are a common-sense measure that should not be up for debate, but accused Senate Republicans of not caring about the city’s speed-camera program because only one of the party’s 31 state senators — state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — actually represents the city.

“They don’t care about New York City — they think New York City should just drop dead,” Carroll said. “It’s disgusting that a program that is so benign to the average person — renewing 140 cameras and adding an additional 50 every year — would be so controvers­ial.”

An official with city’s Department of Education said that the speed cameras can be a life-or-death matter for the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren.

“Our families deserve to know that we’re doing everything we possibly can in order to ensure that all students are safe, and that we need to have these speed cameras turned back on,” said Yolanda Torres, the department’s executive superintendent of the division of family and community engagement. “Community members’ safety and their lives are priceless, precious, and valuable.”

Statistics prove the devices 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.

But the Republican-controlled state Senate ended its session on June 20 without voting on the bipartisan bill that would double the number of speed cameras citywide over the next five years after state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) — who caucuses with the Republicans — did not allow it to leave the Cities Committee, which he chairs. The 140 existing speed cameras stopped issuing tickets once the program expired on July 25, but stayed on so that the city can collect speed data for a report to be released in the near future, according to a spokesman from the mayor’s office.

Last month, shortly before the law expired, Golden bowed to weeks of constituent protests and called on Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island) to bring the Senate back to Albany for a vote on the bill. But after his majority leader took no action, Golden put the blame on Gov. Cuomo the day the cameras expired.

Flanagan later penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News blaming Senate Democrats for wanting to expand the program rather than only preserve it, and blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not calling both the Senate and Assembly back to Albany before the camera authorization expired — even though the Assembly had already passed the camera expansion bill before the end of its session.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Carroll said Cuomo should take such action only if the state Senate fails to reconvene for a vote on the bill before city public schools re-open in September.

“If the state Senate continues to shirk its responsibility and continues to not care about New York’s public schoolchildren, the Governor has to step in,” Carroll said. “The Governor has to do everything in his authority to call the entire legislature back so that we get these cameras back on after Labor Day.”

Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) said locals should remember their reps’ inaction when they head to the polls this fall, and vote out the state senators who are up for re-election and failed to save the speed cameras. Golden and Felder are both up for re-election in November, though Menchaca didn’t mention them by name.

“The message that we must repeat in the next few weeks, in the next months, as we get closer to elections, is that we have to register to vote and make our voices heard,” Menchaca said. “That is what is going to change the ability of our communities to lead and make things happen — vote, vote, vote.”

But Jane Martin-Lavaud — whose 24-year-old daughter Leonora died in a crash at East Fifth Street and Avenue U in 2013 — reminded attendees that the issue of speed cameras is more than just a political football. Clutching a photo of her daughter, Martin-Lavaud told the crowd that she never imagined her daughter would be killed by a speeding driver, and that the speed cameras are a no-brainer that should eventually be expanded beyond school zones.

“Like every parent, I expected my children to outlive me. I expected them to lead full and productive lives,” Martin-Lavaud said. “I don’t understand why this is even a conversation. We want to start with school zones, but we need to expand this program to protect all of our community members.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 2:38 pm, August 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Jeff from Bay Ridge/Bensonhurst says:
Everybody has the wrong idea regarding speed cameras. A vehicle speeding and is caught by a speed camera get a $50 ticket. The ticket is mailed to owner of the registered vehicle.The driver DOES NOT receive the ticket nor is any points charged to his/her driver's license. Another point is the speed cameras CANNOT capture the driver and ticket the driver. By law any accused person can cross examine their accuser. In this case being a speed camera is a device and not a person, the accuser would not have the opportunity of cross examine.
Aug. 10, 3:16 pm

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