This Election Season, StreetsPAC Brings the Speed Camera Fight Door-to-Door

The political action committee wants a State Senate that will actually save lives.

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Photo: NY State Senate
Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Photo: NY State Senate

The fight for speed cameras is about to come right to your front door.

StreetsPAC, the safe streets activist group, will go door-knocking this summer in “key districts” in hopes of electing candidates to the State Senate who will actually support speed camera legislation that has already passed the Assembly but has been blocked by Senate Republicans.

The goal, said StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure, is to show Senate Republicans that their inaction has electoral consequences.

“We’re definitely committed to doing everything we can to help candidates win in a couple key places and get some sanity back in Albany,” McClure said.

Atop McClure’s list is State Senator Marty Golden, who co-sponsored the speed camera legislation, but didn’t convince Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan that the program is important enough to salvage. Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, is also a target. Also in the crosshairs are former members of the Independent Democratic Conference, who support speed cameras, but empowered the GOP minority to control the Senate by partnering with them until the IDC’s collapse earlier this year.

In the November general election, Golden will face either Andrew Gounardes or Ross Barkan, who are currently competing for the Democratic nomination, while Felder faces a primary challenge on September 13 from Blake Morris. Many former IDC members, including Jose Peralta (D-Queens), Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn), Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and Marisol Alcantara (D-Manhattan), face serious primary challenges.

Speed cameras aren’t StreetsPAC’s only policy priority — the organization would not endorse a candidate who opposes congestion pricing, for example — but McClure said the issue is a priority for them in this election cycle.

“Certainly speed cameras are a hot topic right now, and they clearly have been proven to increase safety of the streets where they’ve been employed,” he said.

Volunteers eager to turn school speed cameras back on can sign up to canvass using this form.

The cameras have proven to save lives. In the locations where they’ve been installed, speeding has reduced by 63 percent, according to city data. Traffic fatalities have dropped by 55 percent.

Ironically, the official termination of the camera program has brought new energy to the effort to get it renewed and expanded.

On Wednesday, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets gathered with around 60 activists and key elected officials, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to plan strategy. Activists split into committees, including one called “Drivers Against Flanagan” that will organize caravans to majority leader’s Suffolk County district. The goal is to keep the pressure on the Republican leader — at his office, at his house, and at public appearances.

The three-year fight for cameras has been a labor of love by families and friends of victims of traffic violence. TransAlt Director of Advocacy Tom Devito said the recent news has brought on a new crop of enraged New Yorkers.

“A lot of people were shocked, and didn’t really see the possibility of the program getting turned off, basically, and are now getting involved,” he said. “There’s over a million kids in New York City now that are going to be returning to schools that are more dangerous than they were in June.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    I would suggest not making this single issue. Make the point that this issue is indicative of the way NYC has been treated by the rest of the state, with the help of state legislators who don’t actually represent the people of NYC, only a small number of powerful interests.

    1) NYC is the only part of the state that doesn’t get municipal aid.

    2) NYC is forced to pay more in local taxes for Medicaid than other parts of the state.

    3) NYC is therefore one of only two places (Yonkers the other) with a local income tax in addition to property and sales taxes, but gets nothing extra for it.

    4) The state legislature voted for pension increases for NYC public employees who live in the suburbs, leading to service cuts and tax increases. The pension of public employees in the rest of the state are among the best funded in the country, with NYC among the worst.

    5) Overstaffing, disability fraud, etc.

  • Eric McClure

    Larry, there are clearly many issues at play, but given our mission of advocating for safer streets and better transit, our effort will be quite focussed. I’m certain there will be other efforts that will approach this more broadly, as you suggest.

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