Gounardes Pushing 750 Speed Cameras With Expanded Hours — A Direct Challenge to Cuomo’s Paltry Proposal

The freshman State Senator is carrying Assembly Member Deborah Glick's previously passed legislation — but this time, passage is likely in the Senate, setting up a conflict with the governor.

Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Andrew Gounardes (who now has a beard, FYI)
Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Andrew Gounardes (who now has a beard, FYI)

New York City would be able to deploy speed camera systems at 750 schools — and have them in operation from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. — under a just-unveiled bill that would dramatically expand the effectiveness of a proven lifesaving tool that Governor Cuomo is seeking to only slightly expand.

New State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) and veteran Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) submitted the bill on Thursday, more than double the 290 school-zone cameras that Cuomo had proposed last year and more than five times the current 140 school zones. More important, the proposal would allow the speed cameras to operate well beyond the current restriction of only during school hours — and they would remain on all summer long, enforcing speed limits when neighborhood streets fill with vacationing kids. The cameras could also operate within a quarter-mile radius of schools instead of merely one-quarter of a mile from the school building itself.

Glick has proposed such legislation in the past — though prior years’ version of the bill allowed for speed cameras at all of the city’s 1,700 schools — only to see such bills die in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. But the Senate is not only controlled by Democrats, but last year’s election infused the chamber with a slate of younger politicians who are critical of car culture, including Zellnor Myrie, Julia Salazar, Jessica Ramos and Gounardes, who defeated speed-camera opponent Marty Golden. Carrying this bill represents a campaign promise fulfilled for the first-year lawmaker from Bay Ridge.

Transportation Alternatives’ interim Co-Director Marco Conner called the bill “tremendous.”

“We were pushing for a half-mile radius and camera operation for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but we are very pleased,” Conner said.

City Hall, which has consistently supported speed cameras, was also on board.

“This is ambitious legislation and we look forward to working with the Legislature to advance the life-saving speed camera program,” said mayoral spokesman Seth Stein.

It is unclear what will happen next: The Assembly and the Senate will likely pass the bills, setting up a clash with Cuomo, who hasn’t agreed to more than the 290 that he proposed. Police unions have opposed speed cameras in the past, saying that cops are better suited to punish lawbreakers of all stripes because speeders may also have committed other crimes.

But in the five years that they have been in operation, New York City’s tiny number of speed cameras, operating during school hours, have issued five million speeding tickets. By comparison, tens of thousands of NYPD officers issued roughly one-tenth that amount.

The bill would take effect 30 days after being signed by Cuomo — and would expire on July 1, 2022.

That sunset clause will bring to mind bad memories of last summer, when the State Senate allowed New York’s speed camera system to expire without setting in place a new one. Golden came under particular fire from street safety advocates because he had suggested he would push for more cameras, but then backed off — a flip-flop that became a critical issue in his subsequent defeat by Gounardes in November.

Story was updated on Friday morning to include a City Hall comment. Neither Gounardes nor Glick responded to Streetsblog’s request for comment.