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Staten Islanders Who Oppose Speed Cameras Have A Logical Reason: They Speed!

Vigilantism on Staten Island. Photo: Vince DiMiceli

What a surprise: The people most enraged by speed cameras on Staten Island happen to be the ones who wish they could keep speeding past them without paying tickets.

The leaders of the vigilante movement to warn reckless drivers that they are about to approach a speed camera are themselves recidivist offenders.

Artist Scott LoBaido, who organized a rally over the weekend featuring volunteers holding posters of Mayor de Blasio with devil horns and the words "Speed Camera Ahead," drives an antler-adorned pickup truck that was hit with three speeding tickets last year, on top of the one red light ticket it got in 2013. He has also earned 18 parking tickets.

He calls the cameras "money sucking BS for the mayor.”

Meanwhile, Council Member Joe Borelli, who took exception to Streetsblog's coverage of the yellow ribbon campaign on Wednesday, is not only an ideological supporter of the vigilante movement but also a poster child for why it's terrible: His car has been slapped with five speed-camera-issued tickets — including three since May, 2018. (He also has a pinned tweet urging people to watch videos in their car when they are "stuck in traffic.")

When Streetsblog posted the results of our lookup on Howsmydrivingnyc.ny, the reckless Borelli admitted that he "should go slower." But he continued his support for making drivers more aware of the locations of speed cameras, saying that the yellow ribbons encourage drivers to slow down — a "win for everyone by my measure."

But both Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Borelli has a faulty measuring stick.

"[Yellow ribbon vigilantism] is something that reflects conversations that people haven't had that they need to have," de Blasio said on Thursday. "I support working people. I don't blame anyone for having the impulse to say, 'If I can help someone avoid a fine, I'm going to do that.' But I want people to understand that if we would just all slow down, we don't have a problem here. If everyone is safe, there are no fines. So [yellow ribbon people] are missing the point: The goal here is to get people to slow down. Whatever will get us there, that's what I want to do."

Johnson disputed Borelli and LoBaido's contention that the speed-camera program — which is expanding this year to the full, state-mandated 750 camera systems citywide — is a money grab.

"The whole goal of the speed camera program, regardless of what opponents say, is not revenue-generation. It's actually looking at the data and seeing that over 80 percent of people who get a speed camera violation slow down and do not get another speed camera violation," Johnson said. "So if you are alerting people to where the speed cameras are, people will know, 'Well, I can't speed here, but I can speed here,' it defeats the purpose of us trying to get people to slow down across the board.

"People are losing their lives," Johnson added, referring to two East New York children who were killed by drivers as they walked to school in separate incidents this week alone.

The mayor declined to say whether he would order the DOT or the Sanitation Department to remove the yellow ribbons — though it could be argued that they amount to obstruction of governmental operation. And the city has a long practice of taking down political posters on city property — which is also basically what the yellow ribbons are. (Neither DOT nor DSNY returned a request for comment about its enforcement strategy in this case.)

As a result, some activists say they will go to Staten Island this weekend and hang yellow ribbons everywhere in an effort to encourage drivers to slow down.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog wrote a parody version of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" to reflect what is happening on Staten Island. Click on the audio to hear it performed by The Speeders, with the lyrics below.

I’m drivin’ home, I’m going fast
I’ll slow down if a camera I should pass
The good news is my neighbors help me drive so recklessly
Hanging warning ribbons to help me keep my speed (to help me keep my speed)

Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
Why must pesky cops try to slow my roll?
If I just see a ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
I’ll have to slow down, put on a frown, and drive under control!
If I just see a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole.

These camera systems punish me
It’s a war on cars — as everyone can see
The mayor calls for safety, but he really just wants money
Driving fast is what we do — Americans are free!
Driving slow is such a tease

Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
Why must pesky cops try to slow my roll?
If I just see a ribbon ’round the camera pole
I’ll have to slow down, put on a frown, and drive under control!
If I just see a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole.

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