Albany Leaders Fail to Act on Speed Cameras as Session Comes to a Close

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

As Albany wraps up its legislative session today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are taking no action to protect New Yorkers from a leading cause of death on city streets — speeding drivers. A bill to expand the number of speed cameras in the city from 140 to 200 and loosen restrictions on how they can be used is not in the final package that Cuomo is negotiating with the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate.

With Cuomo and Senate Republicans permanently at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the deck is stacked against any measure in Albany that is perceived to advance the mayor’s agenda. While de Blasio stayed quiet about the speed camera bill, it’s no secret that achieving his Vision Zero street safety goals will be tougher without an expanded automated enforcement program. The fact that more New Yorkers will get maimed and killed because speeding is not consistently enforced on city streets doesn’t appear to factor into the Albany calculus.

Advocates had hoped State Senator co-leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, would provide a path forward by sponsoring a Senate version of Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s speed cam bill. Klein had moved speed camera bills in previous years and has called them “a very smart approach” to traffic enforcement.

In an effort to attract more votes, Glick had significantly scaled back her original bill, which would have enabled camera enforcement by all 2,600 NYC schools, but there was no movement.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie’s office told Glick that a home rule message enacted by the City Council was required for the speed camera bill to advance, said Glick staffer Charles LeDuc.

Such concerns don’t hold Albany back, however, when legislative leaders want to flex their muscle in the city. A huge legislative fight this session, for instance, revolves around the extension of mayoral control of NYC schools. Albany is hammering out some sort of extension without waiting for guidance from a home rule message.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been nowhere on the issue of speed enforcement. In 2013, when he signed the legislation enabling NYC’s first 20 speed cameras, Cuomo said, “Speeding in school zones puts our children at risk and preventing this reckless behavior should be a priority.” He’s been completely silent this year.

Bottom line: If Cuomo, Klein, and Heastie had wanted to expand the city’s speed camera program, they could have.