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We Know Speed Cameras Save Lives, But Albany Still Hasn’t Let NYC Add More in Years

Denyze Gary and members of Families for Safe Streets outside City Hall this afternoon. Photo: David Meyer

It's been years since Albany legislators last allowed New York City to expand its automated speed enforcement program. Despite ample evidence that the city's speed cameras have saved lives, reducing speeding by 63 percent where they've been installed, the State Senate has failed to enact bills enabling the city to install more of them.

A major obstacle last year was Republican State Senator Marty Golden, whose car has been caught speeding several times by the speed camera program.

At a rally this afternoon, Families for Safe Streets called for the State Senate to stop standing in the way of this life-saving technology.

"Why are we forced to take to the streets and demand action once more today?" said Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy Eckstein was killed by a speeding driver on Prospect Park West in 2013. "Cameras work, like a vaccine. They protect our children, and they also help change the culture of reckless driving, and protect all New Yorkers."

The current speed camera program is limited by law in fundamental ways. The city can only install the cameras at 140 locations, they must be on streets abutting a school entrance, and they can't be in effect outside of school hours.

For context, NYC has 6,000 miles of streets and more than 2,000 schools, and 85 percent of traffic fatalities and severe injuries occur at locations or times where camera enforcement is prohibited.

“No mother should have to go to the morgue to ID her son,” said Denyze Gary, whose 22-year-old son Blake was killed by a speeding driving last year. “So I’m asking you to please support the speed cameras.”

Last week, Mayor de Blasio endorsed a package of legislation to curb dangerous driving, including the Every School Speed Camera Act, which would increase the number of school zones in the city where automated speed enforcement is permitted from 140 to 290, expand the definition of a school zone to include any location within a quarter-mile of a school, and extend the program through 2021 (it sunsets this year).

The Assembly has included a version of the bill in its one-house budget legislation, but the Republican-controlled State Senate has made no indication that it plans to do the same. Similar legislation also passed the Assembly last year before being thwarted by Golden and Simcha Felder.

Families for Safe Streets members will have the support of the city when they go to Albany to tell their stories and get the legislation passed.

"Your voices are the only thing that will change the status quo in Albany right now, because we’ve seen what’s happened too many times," de Blasio said at the rally. "We’ve seen too many times that even though the facts are on our side, the truth is on our side, the truth’s been ignored. But your voices can’t be ignored."

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