A bill that will allow a pilot program for speed enforcement traffic cameras in a handful of school zones is winning almost universal approval in New York City.
The measure, approved last week at the close of the legislative session in Albany, will enable the city to operate 20 cameras for five years near schools that are in areas or along roads with documented problems with speeding motorists.
Operating under the same principle as the red light cameras that are proliferating in the city, drivers caught speeding will have their license plates recorded by the cameras.
They will receive a $50 ticket in the mail.
“Speeding remains the single greatest contributing factor in traffic fatalities in New York City, and we have long advocated in Albany for the authority to install speed cameras and help save lives,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement issued by his office last Saturday.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who sponsored the home rule legislation that sent the issue up to the capital, was elated. He applauded the Legislature for a measure he said will save drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
“Not only will implementation of this program make New York City’s streets safer but it will also actively save the lives of those we would have lost without them,” he said.
Van Bramer’s initial request sought up to 40 cameras. No information was available from Gov. Cuomo’s office on his intentions or a timeline for signing the bill into law.
Bloomberg cited statistics saying a child struck by a car moving 40 miles per hour has a 70 percent chance of being killed, while one hit by a car going 30 miles per hour has an 80 percent chance to survive.
Officials could not say exactly where the first cameras will go, though published reports say the first will be installed in the Bronx. But Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said he intends to lobby hard with the NYPD, Department of Transportation and anyone else he needs to in order to get at least one of the cameras in his district.
“Anytime I am out knocking on doors, the number one concern I usually hear is about speeding,” the councilman said Monday in a telephone interview. “In fact, as we speak, I’ve just gotten an email from a resident asking for help in getting speed bumps on her street.”
Richards acknowledges that people can have concerns with certain aspects of any such program.
“In this case, cameras are a deterrent,” he said. “We want people to be responsible. I don’t want people to go out and get $2,000 worth of fines. But if you’re speeding in the vicinity of a school, you deserve a ticket. There isn’t any reason for a school zone to be a parkway.”
Richards said he hopes speed cameras can have the same impact as pedestrian fences did along Queens Boulevard when the city began installing them more than 10 years ago. The fences have sharply curtailed pedestrian fatalities along the stretch of road once dubbed “The Boulevard of Death.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) voted for the bill, but did not do so lightly. “I have concerns about what information will be collected, who is collecting it, how long it will be retained and where they are placed,” Addabbo said. “And all throughout the thought process, I kept coming back to PS 232 in Lindenwood, where we fought to get a crosswalk, and others in my district. If we could have some sort of device there, maybe this is a step in the right direction.”
In a statement issued by advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Executive Director Paul Steely White called passage of the bill a major victory for safer streets and the children of New York City.
Transportation Alternatives advocates for increased funding of mass transit and encourages bike riding and other means of reducing the number of motor vehicles on the city’s roadways.
“With the enforcement tools allowed by this legislation, the City of New York will be able to catch drivers violating the lawful speed limit near our schools and prevent them from putting our children’s lives at risk,” White said on Saturday. Transportation Alternatives expects Gov. Cuomo to sign the bill into law.
Addabbo said lastly that in his mind, the cameras by themselves still are no substitute for a conspicuous NYPD presence in areas where school children are determined to be in jeopardy.
“Give me a uniformed police officer in a marked car, or unmarked, stopping speeders and handing out tickets,” Addabbo said. “This is not a tradeoff. A police officer is a deterrent.”