Council calls on Albany to pass speed-camera expansion bill

Sheepshead Bay’s $2.4-million speed camera
Photo by Steve Solomonson

It’s not camera shy!

Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling on state elected officials to pass a Bay Ridge pol’s bill to preserve and massively expand the city’s school-zone speed-camera system.

The city’s legislative body on Wednesday voted 44–3 to pass the so-called Home Rule Request, which is required because state Sen. Andrew Gounardes’s proposed law to more than quintuple the current 140 cameras around schools in the five boroughs would only affect the city if passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Cuomo.

Councilman Kalman Yeger (D—Bensonhurst) was the only Kings County member, and the only Democrat, to oppose the resolution.

Should the bill become law, it would authorize the city to add up to 610 more cameras across the city’s 2,300 school zones, where 140 are currently in place, and automatically photograph the license plates of cars driving thirty miles-per hour or more in school zones, sending those vehicles’ registered owners $50 tickets.

The proposed legislation would also:

• Lengthen the hours the cameras are on, extending their current operating times from an hour before and after school is in session to between 6 am and 10 pm on weekdays.

• Broaden the areas where the cameras operate, allowing officials to install them within a quarter-mile radius of schools, not just within a quarter-mile stretch of the same street a given school is on as current law allows.

• Require the city to hang signs in school zones with speed cameras that warn drivers of the technology’s presence.

• Mandate local officials prioritize placing the cameras in school zones with higher rates of speeding and crashes.

• Require the city to submit annual reports to the governor and leadership of both chambers of the Legislature with data including the total amount of ticket revenue that local officials spent on traffic and pedestrian safety measures, as well as “the effectiveness and adequacy of the [expanded] hours of operation.”

Data shows that the already in place speed cameras work. In the two years after officials first installed them in 2014, there were 60-percent fewer daily violations in school zones with speed cameras, according to a report published by the Department of Transportation last year. And the majority of Gounardes’ constituents support expanding their presence, according to a 2018 poll commissioned by street-safety group Transportation Alternatives.

The bill will now have to make it through three committees in the Assembly — where Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick introduced her version of the legislation earlier this month — before it can proceed to a floor vote in the state Senate, according to a spokesman for Gounardes.

And Cuomo would ultimately need to sign off on the legislation — which Gounardes previously told this newspaper he predicts will occur without a hitch if it makes it to the governor’s desk.

If Cuomo okays the bill, it would become law 30 days after he signs it, and would be valid through June 30, 2022.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.