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Jeff Klein

State Senate Fails to Act After Assembly Approves Speed Camera Expansion

11:49 AM EDT on June 22, 2017

Senate Republicans Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza.

The State Senate adjourned its 2017 session last night without taking action on a bill to expand the use of speed cameras near schools.

Legislation supported by Mayor de Blasio and safe streets advocates would have allowed for speed cameras in 50 additional school zones each year for the next three years, more than doubling the 140 school zones in the city that currently have automated speed enforcement.

Earlier in the day, the Assembly passed the bill by an 85-31 margin, but Senate leadership, meeting behind closed doors late into the night, declined to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City, according to a report released earlier this month by DOT [PDF]. Current law allows the city to deploy automated speed cameras in 140 school zones during school hours, leaving most locations in the city unprotected at most times. Eight-five percent of traffic fatalities and injuries occur in locations or during times of the day where automated enforcement is not permitted.

Meanwhile, cameras have reduced the incidence of speeding by 63 percent at locations where they've been installed.

While Albany debated the bill, Transportation Alternatives recorded driver speeds during school hours outside schools without cameras. At one school in Bay Ridge, they found 92 percent of motorists exceeding the speed limit.

"This is a life and death issue," said TransAlt Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro. "The fact that it got trapped late night in negotiations on the Senate side, knowing that the Assembly had voted for it -- there’s really no good excuse or reason for that, and it’s regular New Yorkers, New York City kids, who are going to suffer the consequences."

Eight-five percent of crashes resulting in injuries or deaths occurred in areas where speed cameras are not permitted. Image: DOT
Eight-five percent of crashes resulting in injuries or deaths occurred in areas where speed cameras are not permitted. Image: DOT
Eight-five percent of crashes resulting in injuries or deaths occurred in areas where speed cameras are not permitted. Image: DOT

The Senate is controlled by Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference. Jose Peralta of Queens, a member of the IDC, sponsored the Senate bill, but the Republican support necessary for passage never materialized. Staten Island GOP rep Andrew Lanza last month called for an end to the whole speed camera program, and Brooklyn's Marty Golden, the senior Republican representing a New York City district, is not listed as a sponsor.

Several provisions were weakened in response to GOP requests, including a reduction in the number of school zones where cameras would be authorized, from 750 to 290. No one knows what happened behind closed doors last night among the Republicans and the IDC except the legislators themselves, but those concessions apparently didn't move Golden, Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the rest of their conference to act.

Speaking last night on the Senate floor, Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the IDC, called on legislators to come back for a special session to pass the bill. "It's something as simple as making sure people don't speed around schools -- you would think that's a no-brainer," Klein said.

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