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Andrew Gounardes

ALBANY NOTEBOOK: Mayor Treks Upstate, But Speed Cameras are Still at Risk of Expiring

Mayor Adams in Albany on Tuesday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

ALBANY — The vibes aren’t gonna cut it.

The Adams administration's supposedly “dysfunctional outreach effort” in the statehouse apparently continued on Tuesday during Mayor Adams’ trip to Albany, where he barely, if at all, pushed legislators to support a bill that would renew and expand speed cameras — a self-proclaimed priority of his own administration.

Hizzoner’s visit to the Capitol building was part of his last-minute effort to push forward his legislative agenda before session in Albany ends on June 2, an agenda that includes speed cameras, mayoral control of schools, and tax breaks for developers to include so-called affordable housing in their projects — all of which are set to expire in mere weeks without legislative support.

Nonetheless, the issue of speed cameras hardly seemed top of mind during Adams' day in Albany, according to several pols. None of the state lawmakers Streetsblog spoke to on Tuesday said they were in meetings with the mayor where speed cameras explicitly came up.

“The meeting was exclusively mayoral control,” State Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn) said of the mayor’s closed-door meeting with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus on Tuesday morning.

Brisport says he supports his Brooklyn Senate colleague Andrew Gounardes's bill, S5602, which would allow an expanded number of speed cameras to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week instead of merely 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. The cameras, which will be shut off in July without Albany renewal, have been credited with a 72-percent reduction in speeding at locations where they've been placed.

State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), the chairman of the New York City Education Committee met with the mayor in a one-on-one session. After, he said speed cameras are an urgent issue, but would not say whether he and the mayor discussed them.

“We talked about a lot of things. It's a priority for the administration,” Liu said outside the Senate chambers.

Liu also wouldn't say whether he supports the Gounardes bill, only that he supports “maintaining the cameras.” (The bill has many provisions beyond merely extending the camera hours that some of its supporters, even one of its co-sponsors, Roxanne Persaud, have objected to.)

Chaos during Mayor Adams's in-person Q and A on Tuesday in Albany. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Chaos during Mayor Adams' in-person Q and A on Tuesday in Albany. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Chaos during Mayor Adams's in-person Q and A on Tuesday in Albany. Photo: Julianne Cuba

The specter of amateur hour was hovering over the mayor's press conference after his multiple meetings. City Hall had billed the 2 p.m. presser as an “in-person Q-and-A” at the Great Western Staircase of the Capitol, but it became a brief five-minute shout fest in a cramped hallway of the Legislative Office Building instead.

The mayor spoke only in generalities about his meetings, saying the vibes were good. But he did not mention speed cameras, despite being directly asked.

"This was a good exchange of ideas, we took a lot of notes. Great ideas around education, great ideas around NYCHA, great ideas around public safety and just a real good energy from all of us,” Adams said.

The mayor took just two questions.

A spokesperson for the mayor later told Streetsblog that “traffic safety and speed cameras were discussed in multiple meetings” on Tuesday, but would not elaborate.

“Improving and expanding our traffic safety toolbox, including improving and expanding red-light and speed camera programs, is one of the urgent priorities the mayor discussed today with his colleagues in Albany,” said mayoral spokesman, Charles Lutvak.

City Hall bigwigs, including Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, will continue pushing the speed camera issue in Albany with a visit upstate on Wednesday — and that's not all.

“Senior administration officials, including Commissioner Rodriguez, have been and will continue going to Albany and working closely with our partners to stem the tide of traffic violence,” he said.

But time is running out.

Last week, Streetsblog reported that the Adams administration's hopes of getting full city control of the speed- and red-light camera programs was dead. As a result, the administration's hope now is that the legislature passes Gounardes’s bill to renew and expand speed cameras.

But that bill also has several other provisions that are drawing concern from lawmakers, including requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to tell insurance companies whenever a car gets five school-zone speeding tickets in any two-year period; suspending the registration, for 90 days, on any car slapped with six camera-issued tickets within two years; and allowing for increasing fines after a driver gets five tickets in two years.

And not only is the legislature pushing back, but some City Council members who aren’t sold on speed cameras are demanding that camera revenue be allocated to fund road improvements in their districts, Streetsblog reported.

So getting the Council to support the bill by sending what’s called a “home rule message” — a necessary formality — has become a significant hurdle.

Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, who has represented the Upper West Side of Manhattan since Nixon was president, believes getting that “home rule message” is unlikely to happen during the council’s next stated meeting this Thursday, but said it’s possible during the one after that on June 2 — the very same day session in Albany ends for the year.

But even then, if city lawmakers were to give the thumbs up, getting the bill to the floor for a vote back in Albany would be a Herculean task. According to Gottfried, the bills have to be physically sent up the river from the East Wing of the City Hall to the Capitol building.

“We are hearing they are now planning on taking up home rule messages on June 2, which of course happens to be the final day,” Gottfried told Streetsblog on Tuesday afternoon outside the Assembly chamber. “In order to pass, Council has to meet — the printed bill has to be physically attached, it’s all very 20th century. That will require … putting that package of home rule messages in a car or helicopter and getting them to Albany. You can’t scan it and email it to us. It requires a lot of concerted rapid activity.”

But if all that does happen in less than 10 days, upstate Assembly Member William Magnarelli (D-Syracuse), who chairs the Transportation Committee, previously told Streetsblog that he will get it to the floor for a vote.

“They have to deliver a home rule [request] for us to vote on it,” Magnarelli said. “I will make sure, if we get home rule before June 2, we will pass it out of the Transportation Committee. I have some control over that. If I get home rule, I will pass them out of the committee.”

Gounardes did not respond to a request for comment.

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