Long haul: Speed-camera advocates walk marathon around pol’s Ridge office in call for action

Long haul: Speed-camera advocates walk marathon around pol’s Ridge office in call for action
Never give up: Amy Cohen took a break from her 26.2-mile walkathon around the Bay Ridge block of state Sen. Marty Golden’s district office on Aug. 2 to deliver an impassioned speech at the 6:30 pm press conference.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

They know their movement is a marathon, not a sprint.

A group of four women grieving for loved ones killed by speeding drivers spent eight hours walking a full 26.2-mile marathon around the block of state Sen. Marty Golden’s (R–Bay Ridge) district office on Aug. 2 to protest the pol’s inaction on reviving and expanding the citywide speed-camera program.

A Park Slope mother whose 12-year-old son was killed by a speeding driver in 2013 said she hoped the long walk will push Golden to finally act after he backtracked on a personal promise he made to her to get the bill passed — and she vowed to persist until they get results.

“We are not going anywhere — we have paid the highest price for their failure to take action. We’re in it for the long haul,” said Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets and mother of the late Samuel Cohen Eckstein. “Golden signed on as a cosponsor, he made us a promise, and he needs to deliver.”

Cohen and the other walkers — Mary Beth Kelly, Judy Kottick, and Dana Lerner — spent nine hours completing 70 laps around the block that’s home to Golden’s Fifth Avenue office, between 74th and 75th streets, making stops for rest and refreshments at a station set up nearby that featured petitions and information on the speed-camera bill.

About 70 supporters joined the women’s long march at various points throughout the day, according to Cohen, who added that a small group also went inside Golden’s office during a lunchtime break and invited his staffers to join them for a stroll — an offer she said the employees declined.

“Nobody took us up on that,” Cohen said, adding that Golden was nowhere to be found during the day-long event.

The four women were all powered, in part, by their grief.

A Police Department tow-truck driver struck and killed Kelly’s husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, in Manhattan in 2006.

A bus driver struck and killed Kottick’s 23-year-old daughter, Ella Bandes, at Myrtle Avenue and Palmetto Street in Bushwick in 2013.

A cab driver struck and killed Lerner’s 9-year-old son, Cooper, in Manhattan in 2014.

Kottick said the women demonstrated because they never want anyone else to suffer losses like they did at the hands of speeding, reckless, and distracted drivers, and because they believe speed cameras can make a difference.

“We don’t want anyone to experience the kind of pain and suffering that we have every single day,” she said. “If there were speed cameras where my daughter was killed, she might still be alive.”

A group of activists and concerned locals gathered for a press conference directly outside the doors to Golden’s office, where the neighboring district’s local pol — Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) — delivered an impassioned plea for action, blasting Golden for refusing to wield his influence with state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island) to force the speed-camera issue, and saying that his failure to lead will mean defeat in the November election.

“Marty Golden failed to deliver. This is one of the most-important responsibilities of any public official,” Treyger said. “If you can’t do this, Sen. Golden, why are you enabling Senator Flanagan to lead your conference?” Treyger asked. “This program is now expired, but we’re not going to stop fighting until we get this program saved, preserved, and expanded — and the only thing that will be expiring is the tenure of Sen. Golden.”

Statistics prove that speed cameras — which photograph drivers’ license plates and automatically issue $50 fines to speeders — do slow drivers and improve safety. There were more than 60-percent fewer speeding violations in school zones with speed cameras in the two years after they were first installed in 2014, and a nearly 15-percent reduction in injuries, according to a transportation-agency report published last year.

The Republican-led Senate ended its session on June 20 without voting on a bipartisan bill that would double the number of speed cameras citywide over the next five years after state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) — who caucuses with Senate Republicans — did not allow it to leave the Cities Committee, which he chairs. The 140 existing speed cameras stopped issuing tickets once the program expired on July 25, but stayed on so that the city can collect speed data for a report to be released in the near future, according to a spokesman from the mayor’s office.

Last month, before the law expired, Cohen led a 24-hour vigil outside of Golden’s office demanding him to leverage his power as the city’s most senior Republican to pressure Flanagan to reconvene the Senate before the July 25 expiration date. The Ridge pol eventually put out a statement calling on Flanagan to bring the Senate back to Albany for a vote on the bill, but after his majority leader took no action, Golden put the blame on Gov. Cuomo on the day the cameras expired.

Cohen said she’s sick of the politics and just wanted the pols to do their jobs and protect their constituents.

“They should’ve just done the right thing in June, and they need to do the right thing now,” she said.

When Golden’s office was contacted for comment, staffers simply passed along a statement from a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, which again passed the buck to Gov. Cuomo and also, curiously, to the Assembly — which had already passed the five-year speed camera authorization before the session ended. The statement implies that the lower house should instead return to Albany to vote on an alternative bill that was proposed — but never voted on — by Senate Republicans, which keep the cameras operating for a mere six months.

“Senate Republicans have already said very clearly we are willing to approve an extender that keeps the cameras on,” said Scott Reif. “The ball is in the Assembly and Governor’s court.”

Kottick, one of the mothers who walked the marathon, said that Golden in particular should understand the fatal consequences of reckless driving, since an elderly woman he hit with his car in 2005 at Third Avenue and 84th Street later died of her injuries.

“Sen. Golden has a history of speeding and killing someone, so you would think he’d want to make amends and save as many more people as he can, in honor of the person he killed, but he’s not been doing what he needs to do,” Kottick said.

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

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