Albany Fails to Expand NYC Speed Camera Program in Budget Deal

Advocates remain optimistic that the city's automated speed enforcement program will be renewed and expanded in this year's legislative session.

Simcha Felder
Simcha Felder

Budget negotiations concluded in Albany at the end of last week without including an expansion of New York City’s automated speed enforcement program. Advocates are now preparing to campaign for more speed cameras in the spring legislative session.

While the Assembly’s budget proposal would have roughly doubled the size of the speed camera program from 140 locations to 290, the State Senate had no such provision. In final negotiations between the two chambers, the Senate majority — an alliance of Republicans, the renegade Independent Democratic Conference, and Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder — did not let the speed camera language into the budget.

School speed cameras have reduced speeding by 63 percent at the locations where they’ve been installed, and their use has coincided with a significant drop in pedestrian fatalities in New York City. But the program is severely limited. State law permits cameras to operate at just 140 school locations, which are defined as streets abutting a school entrance, and only during school hours.

Until Albany loosens these restrictions, speed cameras will only produce a fraction of the safety gains they could: 85 percent of traffic deaths and severe injuries happen at times or locations when camera enforcement isn’t allowed.

The last time Albany allowed more speed cameras was 2014. For the last three years, Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and the de Blasio administration have pushed legislators to expand the program. This year, there’s an added wrinkle: The program will expire at the end of 2018 unless Albany renews it.

The Assembly’s budget included legislation known as the Every School Speed Camera Act, which would increased the number of school locations to 290, removed some of the restrictions on where and when cameras can operate, and extended the program through 2021.

Politico reported last week that Felder was again an obstacle to expanding the speed camera program in the budget. Felder blocked the same legislation last year after the de Blasio administration refused to agree to his demand to station armed police in every city school.

Despite the setback in budget negotiations, advocates remain optimistic that Albany will act before the end of the session.

“The Assembly showed where their priorities were when they put speed safety cameras in their one house budget,” said Transportation Alternatives Director of Advocacy Tom DeVito. “It’s time for the State Senate to do the same and to step up. These are proven tools to save lives and reduce speeding in school zones. Our leaders have to act.”