Poll: Most Golden constituents want to preserve, expand school-zone speed camera program

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

Call them camera ready.

A new poll shows that the majority of state Sen. Marty Golden’s constituents support preserving and expanding the city’s school-zone speed-camera program that expired on July 25. The results prove that most locals consider the cameras to be lifesavers that Golden should pressure Senate Republicans to re-activate before the city’s more than 1.1 million schoolchildren head back to class in September, according to a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, the organization that commissioned the poll from polling firm Public Policy Polling.

“This poll further reinforces what we’ve already heard from local volunteers that have been knocking on thousands of doors and speaking at numerous senior centers in [Golden’s] Senate District 22: residents of the district overwhelmingly support the speed safety camera program because they know it saves lives,” said Jack Davies. “As the beginning of the school year rapidly approaches, these residents are more anxious than ever to get the cameras back on.”

Public Policy Polling surveyed 515 random registered voters in Golden’s district — which encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Marine Park, Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, and parts of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Mapleton, Gravesend, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay — via automated phone calls during a three-day period beginning two days after the cameras stopped ticketing drivers, from July 27 until July 29.

The firm found that 82 percent of the respondents support the speed camera program, and 65 percent also want to see it expanded. Support for the cameras is even stronger among senior citizens, with 84 percent of the 133 respondents more than 65 years old supporting the cameras, and 69 percent of them wanting to see the program expanded.

The firm called a list of registered voters in the district several times over the three days, according to a polling analyst at the firm, who said that the breakdown of respondents based on neighborhood and party affiliation mirrored that of the district, which has more than 76,000 registered Democrats and about 33,000 registered Republicans, according to the most recent data from the New York State Board of Elections.

State Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) blocked the bill from exiting the Cities Committee, which he chairs, to go to the floor for a vote while the upper chamber was still in session. But since the session ended on June 20, protesters have demanded Golden do more to pressure Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island) to bring the bill to a floor for a vote.

Statistics prove that the cameras — which photograph drivers’ license plates and automatically issue $50 fines to speeders — do slow drivers down 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 in school zones with the cameras, according to a transportation agency report published last year.

A Park Slope mom who protested Golden’s lack of action on the speed cameras this summer said she was not at all surprised to hear that the vast majority of Golden’s constituents support the cameras, because they’re a common-sense way to save lives and make pedestrians — children and seniors especially — safer on the streets.

“It’s not a surprise, because the bill is really a no-brainer,” said Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Samuel Cohen Eckstein was killed by a speeding driver near his Prospect Park West home in 2013. “We’ve spent a lot of time in his community, and everyone is supportive. We’ve heard from a lot of seniors and they expressed that they feel really in danger just crossing the street.”

A spokesman for Golden, James McClelland, said the pol was “not surprised that the majority of his constituents agree with him regarding the speed camera issue,” pointing to both Golden’s call for Flanagan to reconvene the Senate to address speed cameras his co-sponsoring the bill that would preserve and double the number of speed cameras citywide over the next four years.

But a month after Golden announced his support for the speed-cam expansion bill, he co-sponsored a different bill that wouldn’t expand the program, would extend the current speed camera program only for another six months, and require the city to install signs notifying drivers where the cameras are, leading critics to charge that Golden was purposefully undermining efforts to preserve and expand the program.

Davies at TransAlt said that showed Golden didn’t actually to want to get the original speed camera bill passed, and that he was backtracking on a personal promise Cohen said he made to her that he would leverage his power as the most senior Republican in the state Senate to pressure Flanagan to reconvene the Senate to vote on the bill.

“Sen. Marty Golden made a promise to his constituents that he would use his senior leadership position with Republicans to pass this legislation and protect NYC kids. He has failed to live up to that promise. In fact, there’s no sign he’s even made any real effort,” Davies said.

The city’s 140 cameras stopped doling out tickets on July 25, when the original 2013 authorization expired, but a spokesman at the mayor’s office said the city planned to keep the cameras on to collect speed data, which it would compile and make available in a report in the coming weeks.

The mayor’s office announced on Aug. 13 that the cameras caught 132,253 drivers speeding through school zones citywide during school hours between July 26 and Aug. 10 —and 67 percent of those were in 42 school zones across Brooklyn, according to a spokesman from the mayor’s office, which comes out to an average of 5,570 speeding drivers in Kings County during school hours each day during the 16-day period.

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