Not camera shy: Gov will sign bill passed by Legislature authorizing hundreds more speed cameras on city streets

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Darren McGee

As many as 750 speed cameras will soon monitor drivers in city school zones, according to Gov. Cuomo, who on Tuesday said he will sign a bill authorizing a massive expansion of the cameras, and the hours they operate, after the state Senate and Assembly each passed versions of the legislation.

“I support the speed cameras. I’ll sign it,” Cuomo said at a press conference following each chamber’s vote.

The lower chamber passed Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick’s version of the bill before sending it off to the state Senate, whose members passed corresponding legislation introduced by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D–Bay Ridge) by a vote of 43-18.

The Legislature’s approval of the bills came days after Council on March 13 formally requested that state pols vote in favor of the legislation that only affects the city, passing a so-called Home Rule Request by a vote of 44–3.

The bill now awaiting Cuomo’s signature authorizes the addition of up to 610 cameras — which automatically photograph the license plates of cars driving thirty miles-per hour or more in school zones, and send those vehicles’ registered owners $50 tickets — across the city’s 2,300 school zones. The legislation also:

• Lengthens 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.

• Broadens 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.

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

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

• Requires 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.”

Gounardes cheered the passage of the expanded bill, which he said would help make streets safer in Brooklyn and all boroughs.

“No parent, senior, or pedestrian of any age should live in fear of crossing the street because of speeding traffic,” he said. “This program slows traffic and saves lives.”

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 2018 report published by the Department of Transportation. And the majority of Gounardes’ constituents support adding more cameras, according to a 2018 poll commissioned by street-safety group Transportation Alternatives.

The state’s move to massively increase the cameras and their operating hours comes roughly eight months after all of them temporarily shut off last July, after state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) blocked legislation preserving and expanding the program from leaving the Cities Committee, which he chaired at the time, for a floor vote in the upper chamber before it dispersed in June.

Council then stepped in to broker an emergency deal between Mayor DeBlasio and Gov. Cuomo, who ultimately signed an executive order to turn the tech back on before school started in September, and this year included a proposal in his executive budget that would reinstate the speed-camera program without the need for an executive order, and up the number of cameras, but only to 290.

DeBlasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D–Manhattan) applauded the Legislature’s vote to expand the speed-camera program, which Hizzoner called a “huge victory for safe streets.”

The legislation will become law 30 days after Cuomo signs it, and would be valid through June 30, 2022. A spokesman for the governor could not provide a specific date for when Cuomo will sign the legislation, but confirmed that he plans to.

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