Rush to redemption: Gov. demands special state Senate session to vote on speed-camera bill, slams GOP for inaction

Lawsuit: Cuomo must call special election for Grimm seat immediately
File photo by Aaron Short

He wants them to floor it — to Albany.

State Senators must return to the capital for a special session to vote on a bill to double the number of speed cameras allowed citywide before the current camera program expires on July 25, Gov. Cuomo announced on Friday.

Cuomo accused Senate Republicans of playing politics with kids’ lives and said that they must pass the legislation before it’s too late.

“It is unconscionable that the Senate put politics over protecting our children and left this session without passing this critically important legislation,” he said. “The lives and safety of our children are not partisan issues, and I call on the Senate to return to Albany and pass this common-sense bill to prevent tragedies and heartbreak. The clock is ticking for the Senate Republicans to do the right thing — and New York families will remember how they act.”

If the bill passes the upper house, Cuomo would immediately be able to sign it into law because the Assembly already passed its version of the bill on June 18 during the legislature’s regular session. But the state Senate never voted on its version because state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) blocked it from exiting the Cities Committee, which he chairs because he caucuses with the Republican majority rather than his own party.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R–Long Island) did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether or not he has spoken to Flanagan directly.

Cuomo’s move came two days after state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) bowed to weeks of protests from constituents demanding he call on Flanagan to reconvene the state Senate to vote on the bill.

A Park Slope mom who held a 24-hour demonstration outside Golden’s Fifth Avenue office to protest the pol’s inaction on the speed-camera legislation said the politicians had to return to Albany to protect more kids from being killed by speeding drivers.

“As I know all too well, human life is too precious to be a bargaining chip,” said Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son, Samuel Cohen Eckstein, was killed by a speeding driver in 2013. “The Senate Republican leadership must do the right thing and reconvene immediately before this proven life-saving measure is allowed to lapse.”

Current law authorizes the cameras in 140 of the city’s more than 2,300 school zones, according to the Department of Transportation, which determined where to install the cameras by analyzing crash and speeding data, among other factors, but does not disclose specific locations. But that law expires in weeks, so without new legislation, all of those cameras will be turned off then.

The new bill would authorize more than doubling the current number of school-zone speed cameras — bringing the total to 290 citywide — through July 2022.

Statistics prove the devices 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.

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) echoed Cuomo’s remarks, insisting that the senators were putting kids’ lives in danger as they let more time pass with no action.

“When it comes to life-saving speed cameras near our schools, we cannot wait for the next tragedy to occur before taking action,” Brannan said. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our children, and yet this legislation sits idle, putting innocent lives at stake with every day that passes.”

Cuomo signed the first legislation for speed cameras into law in 2013.

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