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Senate Will Not Reconvene To Save Lives With Speed Cameras — And Majority Leader John Flanagan Is Perfectly OK With That

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (left, being congratulated by speed camera opponent Simcha Fielder in an unrelated 2015 event) says he will not call his chamber back into session this week to take up speed cameras — and blamed the governor, Democrats and safety advocates. Photo: NY Senate

Updated — The man standing in the way of New York City's life-saving speed camera program just announced that he's still standing in the way of the life-saving speed camera program.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) broke his silence Tuesday to declare that he's OK with the fact that all 140 school-zone cameras will be shut off tomorrow — and blamed safety advocates, the governor and the Democratic-controlled Assembly for his chamber's failure to reauthorize them before going out of session earlier this month.

Speed cameras, he said in his statement, "will go dark as a result of Governor Cuomo and the Assembly’s unwillingness to engage senators with a larger vision for street safety to protect children. Instead, these politicians shamelessly mug for the press as they blame others. They should look no further than within."

The Assembly passed a bill that would have extended the speed camera program — and doubled the number of electric eyes on scofflaws — but the Senate adjourned before taking it up. Flanagan's statement peddled the disingenuous notion that his chamber was committed to street safety, referencing a much-criticized bill by senators Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Simcha Felder (a Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans) that would eliminate speed cameras and replace them with more traffic lights — which studies show actually increase speeding.

"Senators came up with many ways to protect students from speeding cars, including installing red lights and stop signs at every school intersection," Flanagan's statement said. "The Senate Republican Majority is committed to doing even more to ensure the safety and well-being of all of New York’s students."

That, of course, is not true, advocates said.

"Senator Flanagan is once again playing politics and shirking his primary responsibility to protect New Yorkers. Shame on him," said Amy Cohen of Families for Safe Streets, whose son Sam was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West in 2013. "Instead of doing his job, he and his conference are once again blaming others.
"Senate Republicans proposed a bill that would shut down the speed camera program, despite its proven success. Senate Republicans refuse to renew and expand the proven safety program," Cohen added. "Any talk of non-cooperation falls squarely on the people in charge: Senate Republicans. ... Passing a bill to renew and expand a successful pilot should have been a procedural, routine business of government. The Senate Republicans chose to play a political game with children’s lives. More children like Sammy will die because of their failure."

Speed cameras are a proven deterrent to speeding and have the backing of the NYPD, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, the City Council, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and even longtime opponent Golden. The NYPD says that speeding is reduced by 63 percent when cameras are present, and more than 80 percent of scofflaws never get a second ticket — evidence that most drivers slow down after getting a summons in the mail. Traffic deaths declined as more cameras were deployed in 2014 and 2015.

But opponents, backed by donations from the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, have called speed cameras a gimmick or a "cash grab," in the words of PBA President Pat Lynch.

“Anyone can put out a statement attempting to shift blame, but the truth is the majority of the senate supports this bill. We need Senator Flanagan to demonstrate real leadership and call the Senate back to do what’s necessary to keep our kids safe," said Raul A. Contreras, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio.

Contreras pointed out that the Assembly speed camera bill has 34 co-sponsors in the State Senate — more than enough to pass it outright...if Flanagan would have allowed it to come to the floor.

This story was updated to include more comments and background.

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