Mom: Golden promised me more speed cameras after my son’s death, then changed his tune

Mom: Golden promised me more speed cameras after my son’s death, then changed his tune
Photo by Trey Pentecost

This mom was up all night worrying about other people’s kids.

A Park Slope mother whose son was killed by a reckless driver recently spent 24 hours protesting outside a Bay Ridge state senator’s local office because she claimed the pol backtracked on a personal promise to her that he’d push the passage of a bill to double the number of speed cameras citywide, which his Republican party blocked in the state Senate.

Amy Cohen, who stood vigil with other safe-street activists, claimed Sen. Marty Golden has the power to get the legislation passed before the city’s speed-camera program expires on July 25 — but is choosing not to.

“He told me personally in a meeting that he committed to guaranteeing passage of this bill, but then he issues tweets saying that the speed-safety cameras are unfair because they give $50 fines,” said Cohen, who is a co-founder of Families for Safe Streets. “He is the most senior Republican senator in New York City — if he wanted this bill to happen, if he was truly fighting for it, it would have passed already.”

In 2013, a driver killed Cohen’s son, 12-year-old Samuel Cohen Eckstein, near his Prospect Park West home. And last month, his mother brought a beach chair to the sidewalk outside Golden’s Fifth Avenue office, between 74th and 75th streets, where she stayed from 9 am on June 28 until 9 am the next morning. Throughout the day and night, other parents who had also lost children to rogue motorists stopped by, along with local activists and community members.

Golden reversed his years-long opposition to speed cameras in May when he signed on to support a bill reauthorizing the speed-camera program and doubling their number to 290 citywide, which the Republican-controlled state Senate refused to vote on before the end of their session on June 20.

Then Golden appeared to reverse course again just days later, co-sponsoring a new bill requiring the installation of stop signs or traffic lights at intersections in school zones and extending the current speed-camera program for just six months beyond its July 25 expiration date, among other measures.

Cohen and other street-safety advocates told passersby to go into Golden’s office on the first day of the 24-hour rally, encouraging them to demand to talk to staffers about the speed cameras. But employees soon locked the doors so constituents could no longer enter, according to Cohen.

Later that day, a now-deleted tweet appeared on Golden’s account criticizing the protesters and demanding that they instead confront Gov. Cuomo or Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island), who have the power to convene a special session of the Senate to bring the speed-camera bill to the floor for a vote.

Golden’s spokesman did not respond by press time to inquiries about the deleted tweet, Cohen’s claims that staffers locked the door, or the pol’s in-person promise to her that he would get the bill passed.

The second morning of the rally, a handful of protesters — including Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) — formed a blockade outside Golden’s office, and then moved to block the street, where they were arrested for civil disobedience. Cohen said the blockade was meant to send Golden back to Albany to work on passing the speed-camera bill.

“The goal was to block Sen. Golden’s door because he should be working in Albany and not here in Brooklyn,” she said.

She added that she heard Golden was en route to the office that morning and turned around when he heard the protesters were still out in full force, adding that she never saw Golden at all during the 24-hour protest.

Golden’s spokesman said that the state senator went to his office on Friday, but did not specify when. He said in a statement that Golden maintains the support he has shown for speed cameras in years’ past and that he respected the commitment of Cohen and the others who protested.

“Sen. Golden has long supported the use of speed cameras in New York City and was a key vote for the legislation in 2013 that authorized the original 145,” said John Quaglione. “Sen. Golden is co-sponsoring legislation that will double the number of speed cameras to 290, and is strongly advocating for the Senate to return to Albany to approve this measure. Sen. Golden commends the dedication of those who kept vigil outside his office and stands by his commitment to ensuring the safety of all New Yorkers.”

There were 60 percent fewer daily violations in school zones with speed cameras in the two years after they were first installed in 2014, according to a transportation agency report published last June — a statistic that Cohen said explains the widespread support for the cameras.

“There is overwhelming support in the community for this effort,” she said. “They are proven to work and they’re a lifesaving tool.”

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