Somewhere up above, a new speed camera is watching and waiting.
The city Department of Transportation is not quite halfway through a $62-million program to install 770 speed cameras near every school in the city that didn’t have one by the end of next year.
The prospect of being caught on a hidden camera has unnerved drivers like few other changes instituted by a city administration that has made it clear that it wants to discourage the use of automobiles in New York City.
Since last summer, the DOT has hired 24 new employees dedicated solely to the job of reviewing photos taken by the cameras, checking the license plate numbers and issuing tickets by mail to speeders, a spokesman said.
“We will add reviewers as we deploy additional cameras to ensure that we can process the violations within the legislated time frames,” the department said in a prepared statement.
“We will continue hiring as needed.”
Sources say as many as 200 new reviewers may be in the works.
Cameras are programmed to snap a photo of cars traveling over 38 mph, according to Faiuze Ali, chairman of the Transportation Committee of Community Board 9, who was briefed on the cameras program earlier this month.
His report on the cameras at a board meeting last week in Woodhaven was one of the few in-detail looks at the speed-camera program since it was authorized last July.
The DOT has declined to confirm any of the details disclosed by Ali or to make any officials available to answer questions.
Among those details are:
• the city has collected $42 million in fines so far from violations captured on the 300 or so speed cameras installed since July;
• the $62-million program will pay for itself by May 2020, if fines collection continues at the current rate;
• Queens is the second-highest fined borough in the city, after Brooklyn; and
• the city has begun to explore the logistics of installing cameras on school buses to capture license plates of drivers who do not stop when the bus’ arm is extended, indicating it is picking up or letting off students.
The hours of operation for the cameras were doubled — from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. — under the new law.
It also authorized the city to install the cameras on any street within a quarter mile of a school.
Concerned parents pushed hard in the state Legislature earlier this year to toughen the law.
“I know a lot of people think this is just a way for the city to make money,” said Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, which covers Howard Beach and Ozone Park and who received the same DOT briefing.
“But if you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t speed,” she said at a CB 10 meeting.