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Cuomo Can Save Lives by Unshackling NYC’s Speed Camera Program

Children went to Albany last spring to try to convince state legislators to allow more NYC speed cameras. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to step up. Photo: Brad Aaron

Mayor de Blasio says city officials will again ask Albany to let NYC expand its speed camera program. In addition to lifting the cap on cameras, Cuomo and state lawmakers should end arbitrary restrictions on location and hours of operation, which make the cameras less effective than they could be.

NYC is currently limited to operating 140 speed enforcement cameras. The cameras must be sited near schools and can be activated only during school hours. Even so, cameras caught 10 times as many speeding drivers as NYPD did last year -- issuing 1.37 million citations compared to 137,000 written by police -- according to testimony presented to the City Council yesterday.

But state mandates that narrow the scope of the program leave New Yorkers exposed on some of the city's most dangerous streets.

The Village Voice reports that, according to DOT, 85 percent of traffic deaths and serious injuries occur at times and locations that Albany has decreed off-limits to automated speed enforcement. “Unfortunately a lot of crashes do not happen near schools or during school hours,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told council members Thursday.

Lobbying state lawmakers to allow more cameras has become an annual tradition for NYC officials and victims of traffic violence. Last spring, members of Families for Safe Streets accompanied dozens of children who traveled to the capitol to make the case for speed cameras outside every school in the city.

Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie

Manhattan Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who sponsored last year's bill, eventually reduced the ask to just 60 additional cameras, with looser restrictions on placement. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, insisted that the bill had to be accompanied by a City Council home rule message, which wasn't true. On the Senate side, support from power broker Jeff Klein, who has backed speed camera legislation in the past, never materialized.

This year, Transportation Alternatives will train its efforts on Governor Cuomo. “We’re really asking the governor to take action,” TA Executive Director Paul White told the Voice.

A recent TA-funded survey of NYC voters found that 84 percent of respondents, most of whom own cars, support putting speed cameras near more schools.

“The legislature is so dysfunctional now," said White, "really the surest route to victory, the surest route to saving kids’ lives, is if the governor takes this on.”

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