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Council Speed Camera Bill Allows for As Many Cameras As City Wants

9:23 PM EDT on August 27, 2018

Speaker Corey Johnson (left with Council Member Ritchie Torres) has unveiled his speed camera bill. Photo: John McCartin for NYC Council

New York City's speed camera program is not only back — it may be bigger than ever.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson has unveiled his bill that would restore the city's 140 school zone camera systems — and almost certainly expand them — and it's clear that this is not some temporary fix, but a full end-run around the state legislature.

For one thing, the bill, which will be discussed in the Council on Tuesday, provides no cap on the number of speed cameras that the city is permitting itself to deploy. And the city law will only expire when the state legislature passes a "photo speed violation monitoring program in the city of New York that is identical to, substantially similar to or more expansive in scope than the program that would result from the enactment of A. 7798-C, as passed by the New York state assembly on June 18, 2018."

Governor Cuomo with members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: Kevin Coughlin/State of New York
Governor Cuomo with members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: Kevin Coughlin/State of New York
Governor Cuomo with members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: Kevin Coughlin/State of New York

That Assembly bill would have doubled the number of camera systems around city schools, but the Republican State Senate Leader John Flanagan refused to bring it to a vote, even though it had the support of a majority of senators.

It is unclear if it is legal for the city to create a new speed camera system, let alone expand it. But Mayor de Blasio is already championing the idea of installing more cameras.

"Everyone started talking in the last week or 10 days and we came to the realization at the city level that there was a legal pathway to pass legislation that would give ourselves the ability to put these cameras up," de Blasio said on NY1 on Monday night. "It was not an idea that had been fully recognized previously. I'm very happy with the action of the Council and Speaker Johnson."

The city bill includes many of the same provisions as the state-approved program that was allowed to expire in July: "speeding" still only earns a summons if the driver is traveling more than 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. And the fine is still $50.

The owner of the vehicle will be liable for the fines, unless he or she can prove the car was stolen or being operated without the owner's consent.

The release of the bill follows an emergency executive order signed on Monday by Governor Cuomo overriding state laws requiring the program terminate this summer — a move that will likely result in a constitutional challenge. Until the executive order went into effect, the city could continue to collect speed data on its cameras, but it could not issue tickets.

"It's a very helpful action," de Blasio added, hailing his rival Cuomo.

Streetsblog reached out to Flanagan, but has not heard back.

The speed camera program has been considered a success by city officials. Since 2014, more than 4,679,000 summonses were issued by the cameras.

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