NYC steps up calls for full speed enforcement and red light camera programs
STATEN ISLAND, NY — With less than four months to go until New York City’s school zone speed camera program expires, officials are mounting calls for Albany to give the city full control of its own streets.
On Friday, Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez were joined by city and state lawmakers, as well as street safety advocates, on Friday to call on the state to grant New York “bylaws” on city streets, which would include the ability to make changes to the speed camera program without seeking state legislative approval.
“My job is to keep New Yorkers from dying on our streets, and I need Albany to give me the tools to do my job. I want New Yorkers to hold me accountable for my decisions and outcomes. , and that means I need house rules control on our speed cameras and red light cameras,” Adams said.
In its current configuration, New York’s school zone speed cameras exist as part of a demonstration program, which must be renewed by the state legislature every few years.
The city’s speed camera program, which was first implemented in 2014 and expanded in 2019, is licensed to operate under state law set to expire July 1, 2022, when laws authorizing the program would be repealed, unless new legislation with an extended end date were to be passed and signed into law before the date.
Changes to the program, such as extending the hours cameras are open and adjusting the locations where they can be installed, can only be made at the state legislative level, which city officials and safe streets advocates say it should change.
“Unfortunately, as a former council member, I know all too well that New York City is not always able to control our destiny when it comes to public safety, which means some critical life-saving changes on our streets are happening too slowly,” Rodriguez said.
The city is seeking bylaws to establish full control over not only the speed camera program, but also the city’s red light camera program, automated bus lane enforcement program, and the ability to control local speed limits, which are currently set at the state level.
If the bylaw is granted, the city plans to repeal existing limitations on when speed cameras are allowed to operate.
Currently, speed cameras in the city are only allowed to operate weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
However, city officials and safe streets advocates are pushing for cameras to be on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, citing statistics that indicate many of the city’s fatal crashes occur during hours when cameras are not currently allowed. operate.
In October, the city published its annual report Automated Speed Control Program Reporta comprehensive review of the program’s history and effectiveness from 2014 to 2020.
The report noted that more than 35% of all off-road deaths in New York City in 2020 occurred in school camera zones at times when cameras could not issue tickets under current law. .
Although the cameras have been effective in deterring speeding during operating hours, the report found that many of the worst crashes, those involving fatalities, occur in these school zones at times when the cameras are not currently available. not allowed to operate.
In 2020, more than half, 56%, of fatal crashes in school zones with speed cameras occurred during hours when speed cameras are not currently permitted to operate, with 38% occurring on weekends and 16% occurring night on weekdays.
“Albany’s control over the safety of New York’s streets is deadly,” said Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Fifty-nine percent of recent traffic deaths in the five boroughs have occurred at a time when Albany is requiring speed cameras to be turned off. This is unconscionable and must be changed immediately.
The mayor was joined at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Beverley Road near PS 245 in Flatbush by the family of Isaiah Benloss, an 18-year-old who was killed after being hit by a speeding ticket which ran a red light at 3 a.m., a time when cameras are currently not allowed to issue violations.
“All these loud voices of those who want to protect people who break the law, can they join us and protect people who obey the law?” said Adams. “That’s what I’m trying to do so that I don’t lose this beautiful young 18-year-old because someone decided to speed up at three in the morning when we had to, by law, turn off the cameras because although people stop speeding after school hours.
LOCAL LEGISLATOR’S BILL
As the city seeks to control the program to expand its ability to issue speeding tickets, Assemblyman Charles Fall (D-North Shore) introduced legislation earlier this year, it would renew the speed camera program through July 1, 2024 and maintain state control, but reduce the hours the cameras operate and drastically reduce the distance they can be placed from school buildings .
The bill, if passed, would reduce business hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. by four hours a day, to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It would also reduce the distance they can be placed from school buildings from the current radial distance of a quarter mile, or 1,320 feet, to just 120 feet, meaning most cameras would have to be placed practically in front of a school building.
In 2019, the MP supported, voted for, and co-sponsored the bill that expanded hours of operation and camera placement distances.
“We talk about the safety of our children, pedestrians and school crossing guards. I would never want to confront a grieving family if one of their children or loved ones were injured or even killed by a reckless motorist in a school zone. Let’s take a proactive, not a reactive approach, especially on this important subject,” Fall said at the time.
However, since then, Fall said he has come to believe that the expanded aspects of the program have resulted in unfair tickets for residents due to what he described as government overreach, causing him to pushed to introduce the new bill, which would reduce the same aspects of the program he had previously supported.
“Although I voted for the original school speed camera bill, which passed in 2019, the introduction of speed cameras during the program expansion has caused several unfair violations to residents who are not even close to a particular school. This is a serious and unfair overreach on the part of the city and the current program as it stands,” the MP said.
“Naturally, I view the program’s intent to protect our students, parents and school crossing guards as laudable, but we need to strike the right balance,” he added.