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

School-zone traffic enforcement devices will go dark in New York City on Wednesday as a result.

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
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.

  • Eli

    By NYC’s population, it’s inevitable that a child will be preventably killed in a school zone in the next year if the cameras are turned off.

    I would not want to be the political leader running for re-election with families and neighbors holding signs, “Senator Flanagan Killed My Daughter” and “Senator Flanagan Killed My Neighbor”.

  • joyauto

    The only reason the NYC speed limit was lowered to 25 mph is because of the speed cameras. They are money machines. You pay if you’re 11 miles over the speed limit. So if you lower the speed limit most everybody becomes a “speeder.” If they lower it to 20 mph, the city will have a true windfall. So, maybe its good that they do away with speed cameras. People need to realize, laws are all about money, not safety.

  • AsEasyAsRiding

    Maybe if you choose to drive below the posted limit, rather than 11mph over it, you wouldn’t get fined. Just a thought.

  • AlexWithAK

    This is nonsense and your attitude is selfish and callous. The speed limit was lower because lowering speed limits is proven – by data and research – to save lives. It is MORE than reasonable to expect people to drive below 35 MPH anywhere in a dense city, let alone near schools. Stop pretending you have the right to endanger people’s lives because you want to pretend you’re a race car driver.

  • Joe R.

    If you want to drive fast get on an f-ing highway. All speeding on local streets accomplishes is getting to the next red light faster.

  • joyauto

    Now that you’ve all misinterpreted my statement, let me enlighten you. When the speed limit was 30 mph, if i was doing 36 mph, the city was ok with that. I was a responsible driver, not a speeder. But when the speed limit was lowered to 25, at 36 mph, I suddenly became a heartless, speeding, race car driver who should only drive on a f-ing highway. Get real people. It was a money grab!!

  • joyauto

    What you don’t realize is that everything in driving is a habit. And driving slower because the speed limit was lowered would not change the habit of driving at a speed that feels comfortable.

  • joyauto

    When the speed limit was 30 mph, 6 mph over the was acceptable. When the speed limit is lowered to 25, all of a sudden the same speed becomes 11 mph over the limit and somehow that makes me a bad person. You need to think about it.

  • Joe R.

    Keep in mind the school cameras were only operative at a small number of locations, and then only during school hours. Any knowledgeable driver would know the locations of any speed cameras on their usual routes so they could avoid a ticket. This is exactly why 80% of drivers never get a second ticket. It’s not like they suddenly stop speeding. Rather, they just stop speeding in places where they know they’ll get caught. A truly effective program would have cameras on every single street operating 24/7. Or you could just have vehicles use GPS to govern their speed to the speed limit. Either thing would curb speeding altogether.

    That said, given all the traffic signals in this city, I’m hard-pressed to see exactly what is accomplished by driving fast. So many times I have drivers pass me while I’m cycling only to catch up to them at the next red light. I end up making the same forward progress as they do without exceeding perhaps 25 mph.

    Finally, I’m kind of ambivalent that the speed camera program expired. There weren’t enough cameras to do any good, nor were the existing ones in operation 24/7. It was more a feel good exercise to make the politicians think they’re doing something for safety when they’re really not. Ditto for the (mostly unenforced) 25 mph speed limit. The only way to dramatically reduce the number of injuries/deaths is to dramatically reduce the number of vehicles on the streets. The city won’t do this because the Mayor is afraid of doing anything which inconveniences motorists. So instead he chose “solutions” which mostly don’t affect motorists, but at the same time accomplish very little.

  • joyauto
  • carl jacobs

    That’s not a good argument. Driving habits are not dispositive. When the city puts up a new stop sign, you can’t say “But Officer. I’m used to it not being there.” You have to adjust to the new context. If the city lowers the speed limit, you have to adjust. The gov’t is acting within its authority to do so. It may “feel” slow but that’s not relevant.

    The problem with a speed camera is that it separates guilt from punishment. The registered owner is fined regardless of who is driving. And drivers hate them because they enforce a threshold instead of a context. Most places that would outweigh the benefit for me. But in front of a school? That’s one place you should never play games with the speed limit. It’s not about speed at that point. It’s about looking for little feet.

  • joyauto

    I think you would be surprised to learn how many drivers ignore new signs. Two way streets turned into one-way streets with a Do Not Enter and drivers still enter because they live on that street. When they changed toll lanes on the the Throggs Neck Bridge, drivers still went to the Cash lane, even though it was now an EZ Pass lane. They never saw the sign that was a big as a billboard. Habits are hard to break.

  • carl jacobs

    You are correct. Habits are hard to break. That’s why drivers are given extensive warnings about pending changes. If a new stop sign goes up, the city first posts a sign saying “We are going to put a stop sign here.” Then they put up a stop sign accompanied by bright red flags and other indicators. After some period of time, they will decide that enough time has been given to change habits.

    But none of that matters when it comes to culpability. There is a stop sign. You are required to stop. Old habit patterns are not an excuse. So your post, though correct, is fundamentally non- responsive. Your old habit patterns don’t give you leave to violate new traffic laws.

  • Andrew

    If I’m understanding correctly, you believe that it’s safe to drive 36mph on NYC streets. Is that correct?

  • joyauto

    Did I say old habits “justify” violations? I’m just saying that’s the reality. Drivers don’t observe properly. After a crash one of the most frequent comments is, “I didn’t see him!”

  • carl jacobs

    So why is that a valid argument against these speed cameras? Because that it how you presented it.

  • joyauto

    I’m against cameras because I don’t think they’re about safety. They’re about making money. The same is true for red light cameras. The argument is that they reduce intersection collisions. What they don’t tell you is that they are increasing rear-end collisions. So it doesn’t matter what type of collision it is, as long as the City and State are making money.

  • carl jacobs

    That’s a self-serving argument. You can’t win simply by ascribing bad faith to your opponent. It is not true that the only reason these cameras would be installed is to make money. And the difficulty drivers experience in breaking established patterns is not evidence that these cameras were installed simply to make money.

  • joyauto

    That’s your opinion. I have mine.

  • carl jacobs

    But you haven’t even tried to prove your major contention – that these cameras were installed just to make money. Why should I believe that to be true when an alternate rationale has been offered – a rationale that I both understand and accept?

  • joyauto

    Can you prove that lives have been saved because of the cameras? Don’t believe the hype. The City and State always want to make you think they care about safety. The truth is, drivers who kill hardly ever get a ticket, much less jail time. How is that promoting safety? And, please, spare me, don’t tell me they’re accidents!!

  • joyauto

    The reason city officials are mad at Albany is not about the increase in crashes. It’s about the decrease in a megaton of revenue. At $50 each, the camera tickets have produced $16.9 million for the city’s coffers. “That’s a lot of dough,” said Glen Bolofsky, founder of Parkingticket.com “It’s a tremendous new revenue gain.”

    And now it’s gone. Yeah, tell me it’s not about the money!

  • Eli

    Sounds like you have some inside sources there — since otherwise there’s no way you’d have anything but personal speculation and prejudice projected onto people likely you’ve even never met.

    Could you tell us more about how you know exactly what city leaders’ intention is? e.g. who from the city have you spoken with who has told you that the money is the major issue?

  • joyauto

    Here’s one source of many: chttp://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-speed-camera-tickets-bring-16-9m-city-article-1.2166713

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