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Kathy Hochul

Gov. Hochul Says All the Right Things About Speed Cameras

Gov. Hochul's effort to distance herself from her disgraced predecessor could make New York City a safer place.

In a City & State virtual breakfast on Thursday, the Empire State executive said she believes that cities should have the ability to install speed cameras at their own discretion rather than needing to beg Albany for permission — a process that once enabled the then-GOP-controlled Senate to block New York City's safety camera program in 2018 before the legislature reauthorized them a year later.

"I'm approaching government from a very common-sense approach," said Hochul, who got her start as a town board member in upstate Hamburg. "Why does the state legislature and the governor have to weigh in on whether or not a school district in the city of New York has speed cameras in school zones? Tell me why that has to be relegated to an issue that becomes a political football at the end of a session in terms of extracting promises, concessions. I don't want to govern that way."

And in another explicit break with her transactional predecessor, Hochul also promised to "find ways that we can start empowering the local governments, empowering the cities and the counties to do what they do best. ... So yes, there is enormous power in this in the governor's office right now, you can either abuse that power, or you can use it to benefit the state. I'm going to use this to benefit the people to state and where it makes sense, return the power to the local governments."

She added that her "lifetime of experience" in local government has given her "a different perspective of the role of state government not having to be so heavy-handed."

The de Blasio administration has not only been pushing for local control of speed cameras for many years, but more recently has been asking the state Legislature to give the city the ability to operate its existing 750 school-zone camera systems on a 24/7 basis, instead of only during weekdays and only during certain hours.

The push culminated in a bill last year by Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) to give the city that control, but it never made it out of committee in either house.

Hochul's support for local control is well known (as she did on Thursday, she frequently mentions her past in local government), but her support for speed cameras may be less known to the public, though she has long championed them. In 2018, she stood with members of Families for Safe Streets to complain when Republicans in the state Senate used their thin majority to block the reauthorization of speed cameras.

And since becoming governor, she has approved an expansion of work zone speed cameras.

As such, advocates for the life-saving technology hailed Hochul's comments.

“Gov. Hochul’s statement today marks a huge paradigm shift in Albany’s approach to safe streets," said Families for Safe Streets Member Jane Martin-Lavaud, whose daughter, Leonora Lavaud, was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in 2013. "This refreshing approach to leadership is exactly what is needed as New York City faces the deadliest year on our streets in the entire Vision Zero era."

Martin-Lavaud also put in a pitch for Hochul to urge the legislature to pass a fuller Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, a package of bills that stalled last year in Albany.

"We are eager to work with her on legislation that gives New York City the ability to have home rule for safe streets and prevents an Albany political football for many years to come,” Martin-Lavaud said.

City Hall declined to offer a comment, but we will update this story if we get a statement.

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