Albany Deal Extends Speed Cameras, But Sacrifices the Bill’s Boldest Provisions
Albany lawmakers on Thursday afternoon reached a deal to renew and expand the city’s speed camera program, keeping them on 24/7 — but the sausage was made only after key provisions of the bill that would help keep reckless drivers off the road were gutted by state lawmakers.
“Deal locked down late this afternoon. Three-year extension with 24/7 cameras,” confirmed state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) in a text message to Streetsblog. But Gournardes declined to comment on the loss of key parts of the bill that would have suspended car registrations for owners who got excessive speeding tickets, forced the DMV to inform insurance companies of their clients’ repeat recklessness and raised the ticket fines on drivers for multiple offenses.
But the bill achieved one key demand of street safety advocates: The city’s 750 school-zone speed camera systems remain on 24-7-365 instead of the current 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays only, when the streets are most dangerous, according to city stats.
Advocates said on Thursday night that they were pleased that a deal was reached so that the cameras would not go dark on July 1, as they would under current law.
“Expanding the speed safety camera program is one key step for getting Vision Zero back on track. We’re will continue our advocacy to get this measure across the finish line,” said Cory Epstein, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives after news of the deal was first reported by the Post.
“Speeding takes place 24 hours a day in the city, but our cameras go to sleep from 10 to 6 and take the weekends off.”
These limits by Albany are unacceptable and unsafe.
Join us in demanding speed safety cameras 24/7 in NYC.
— Transportation Alternatives (@TransAlt) May 19, 2022
But as the bill moves forward, advocates will no doubt be disappointed that Gounardes’s original proposal has been significantly watered down to seal the deal, the new amended bill reveals.
Several key provisions that were ambitious by New York standards had drawn concern from lawmakers, including Sen. Roxanne Persaud, who co-sponsored the bill, but later told Streetsblog that she had some problems with it, including a provision that required the Department of Motor Vehicles to tell insurance companies whenever a car had received five school-zone speeding tickets in any two-year period.
Other parts of the bill allowed for the suspension of a car’s registration, for 90 days, if it received six camera-issued tickets within two years.
The original bill also called for escalating fines after a driver gets five tickets in two years.
“It’s great news that they are removing the hour restrictions [but] obviously it’s not enough and enabling the city to deploy more cameras and increase fines for repeat offenders are all things we still need,” said Eric McClure of StreetsPAC. “It’s disappointing we couldn’t get that done this session, but rest assured advocates will be back in Albany fighting to get the job done.”
Perhaps anticipating such criticism, Mayor Adams issued a statement late on Thursday championing the deal.
“Make no mistake about it, this is a major victory for New Yorkers that will save lives and help stem the tide of traffic violence that has taken too many,” he said.
Gounardes declined to elaborate further on the private negotiations that led to the deal, or about the nixed provisions, saying he doesn’t want to jeopardize the bill from ultimately passing.
Mayor Adams had trekked up to the capital on Tuesday in an attempt to sway legislators still unsure about the benefits of speed cameras. He had originally sought complete city control over speed cameras so that advocates did not need to petition for renewal every few years, but after that fell through, he pushed for passage of the Gounardes bill. But members of the City Council objected to some parts of the bill, too; the Council will now be asked to submit a “home rule message” before the state legislature passes the compromise deal.
Getting the speed camera extension before session in Albany ends on June 2 was what Gounardes originally had called the “bare minimum.”