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Speed Cameras Can No Longer Issue Tickets But City Will Still Collect Data On Scofflaws

7/25/18: And they’re off! Twenty mobile speed camera units like this one were taken off the roads today because of inaction by the State Senate. Another 20 will be taken out of service by the end of August as the full speed camera program goes dark. Photos by Gersh Kuntzman.

Smile, scofflaw, you’re still on candid camera!

As 140 school-zone cameras were turned off by the state legislature, Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said 100 of cameras would still collect data on speeders to be used as evidence — someday — that the program is a vital safety tool.

More than 4,679,000 summonses were issued by the cameras since 2014, but the Republican-controlled State Senate, fueled by donations by anti-camera NYPD officers, failed to reauthorize the program before going out of session earlier this month. As a result, the cameras — which protected 140 school zones with fixed cameras and 40 mobile devices — can no longer hit drivers with a summons.

"It's a sad moment," Trottenberg said on Wednesday, flanked by speed camera division employees, who will now be redeployed.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, flanked by workers, called the end of speed cameras "a sad moment" and begged the State Senate to reconvene and pass an Assembly bill reauthorizing the city's speed camera program.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, flanked by workers, called the end of speed cameras "a sad moment" and begged the State Senate to reconvene and pass an Assembly bill reauthorizing the city's speed camera program.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, flanked by workers, called the end of speed cameras "a sad moment" and begged the State Senate to reconvene and pass an Assembly bill reauthorizing the city's speed camera program.

But there is some good news, she added.

"Our fixed cameras will still be collecting data," Trottenberg said. "We are gathering data ... to show what speeding looked like around schools (with) a dramatic reduction in speeding. We will collect the general data about the counts of who is speeding."

It is unclear if the State Senate will be persuaded. Its leader, Majority Leader John Flanagan, issued a statement on Tuesday blaming the Assembly and Governor Cuomo for his chamber's decision not to reauthorize the cameras. Cuomo fired back on Wednesday with a blistering critique of GOP politics.

But at a municipal garage in Queens, Trottenberg watched as 20 mobile units returned from the streets on their last day and thanked several dozen department workers for their service on the Vision Zero program. Their work manning speed cameras and issuing summonses "saved lives," she said. "They should be proud of that for their whole career."

One of those workers, supervisor Ruddy Bernal, told Streetsblog that he happily caught speeders with his mobile unit, which consists of a camera mounted inside a sedan, plus a strobe light that flashes when the radar detects speeding.

Ruddy Bernal says he never felt bad whenever his mobile camera unit caught a speeder.
Ruddy Bernal says he never felt bad whenever his mobile camera unit caught a speeder.
Ruddy Bernal says he never felt bad whenever his mobile camera unit caught a speeder.

"I probably caught 1,000 speeders myself since 2014," he said. "I feel bad the program is over because it's so dangerous out there."

Bernal recalled sitting in the unit as the camera snapped drivers sometimes going more than 50 miles above the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit.

"I was in the Bronx once and caught a Corvette going 80!" he said. "I didn't feel bad for a second that he got a ticket."

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