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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.

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Cuomo’s $27 Billion Transportation Plan Needs Some Sunlight

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Transportation has billions of dollars at its disposal to spend on capital projects but doesn’t tell the public what it plans to do with the money. A bipartisan bill in both houses of the state legislature aims to change that.

Current state law lets New York Governor Cuomo determine state DOT's list of capital projects before the state legislature has gotten a chance to see it. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

Current law lets the Cuomo administration determine how state DOT will spend billions before the public gets a chance to weigh in. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

Unlike the MTA capital plan, which is open to public scrutiny, the state DOT’s project list for its five-year capital program remains a mystery, even after the state legislature approved $27 billion dollars for it in April.

The process used to be more open, with the legislature and governor openly discussing the DOT’s annual list of projects. But that basic level of transparency ended some years ago, said Tri-State Transportation Campaign New York Director Nadine Lemmon. Now when legislators ask for the project list, the Cuomo administration fails to deliver it.

The opaque process makes it harder to hold the governor’s office and the state DOT accountable. For the last few years, for instance, Tri-State has called on the Cuomo administration to dedicate $20 million annually to complete streets projects. Without a list of projects, there’s no way to know if that request has been met. Lemmon said she’s had to piece together the DOT’s project list from press releases and recent statements by Cuomo and his staff.

A project list that’s shielded from scrutiny is more susceptible to political horse-trading and less likely to reflect public priorities. “There is some public value to seeing [the list] before it gets passed,” Lemmon said. “[Otherwise] it’s behind closed doors. It’s subject to all the terrible things that could happen in a political process.”

On Friday, the Albany Times Union editorial board blasted the budgeting approach. The lack of transparency “makes these decisions too easily subject to unhealthy considerations — like political rewards and punishments,” the paper wrote. “While it may not take the politics out of the process altogether, opening these spending decisions to greater public scrutiny would certainly help. If there’s nothing to hide, there’s no reason to keep it secret.”

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NYC Motorists Killed Four People Walking and Biking This Weekend

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

New York City motorists killed four people walking and biking this weekend. One of the victims was struck in a Midtown crosswalk while crossing with the right of way, but NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance haven’t filed charges against the driver.

Po Chu Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue at W. 30th Street at approximately 5:15 Saturday afternoon when a driver struck her with a GMC SUV while turning left onto the avenue, the Daily News and Gothamist reported.

Ng, 52, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. The driver was a 27-year-old man. WABC reporter CeFaan Kim tweeted a photo showing that the SUV had Taxi and Limousine Commission plates. A Daily News photo shows the SUV sitting in the crosswalk with a pool of blood on the street in front of it.

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue on the north side of the intersection, west to east, in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal “in her favor.” But as of this afternoon, the driver, whose name was not released, did not face charges under the Right of Way Law. The spokesperson said the crash is still being investigated.

As part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, in 2014 NYC adopted the Right of Way Law, which penalizes motorists for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, and Cooper’s Law, which gives the TLC a mechanism to revoke the TLC licenses of cab drivers who kill people who are walking and biking with the right of way. NYPD enforcement of the Right of Way Law remains inconsistent, and the TLC does not use Cooper’s Law, in part because police and district attorneys rarely file charges after a serious crash.

Three of this weekend’s fatal crashes were hit-and-runs, prompting Transportation Alternatives to call on state lawmakers to act this week to toughen penalties against drivers who flee crash scenes.

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To Gain Votes in Albany, Speed Cam Compromise Won’t Protect Every School

Image: Transportation Alternatives

Instead of allowing New York City to place speed enforcement cameras by every school, a revised bill would increase the number of cameras to 200 — covering about 10 percent of schools. Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Assembly Member Deborah Glick has put forward a revised speed camera bill in an effort to pick up more votes in Albany. The new version — Assembly Bill 10652 — authorizes 200 speed cameras in New York City, an increase from the current limit of 140, but nowhere near enough to implement automated speed enforcement by every school, as the initial legislation (A9861) would have enabled.

With the legislative session wrapping up at the end of the week, time was running out to pass a bill. Glick’s initial bill had the support of 28 of her Assembly colleagues, but Jose Peralta’s counterpart bill in the State Senate seemed unlikely to pass without the support of Independent Democratic Conference chief and Senate co-leader Jeff Klein. In the past, Klein has called speed cameras “a very smart approach,” but he did not step forward to support the recent bill.

State Senator Jeff Klein has called speed cameras “a very smart approach to eliminate speeding,” but has yet to support legislation this session to expand New York City’s automated speed enforcement program.

Glick staffer Charles LaDuke said the legislation was amended because the initial bill “wasn’t getting enough traction.” Streetsblog has asked Klein’s office for his position on the new bill and has yet to receive a reply.

The city’s automated speed enforcement program has proven effective. Speeding was reduced 60 percent in locations with cameras, according to NYC DOT, and overall traffic deaths in the city have fallen to record lows since the cameras began operating. Still, with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of schools remain unprotected, and more than 200 people are killed in traffic every year.

While the compromise bill won’t protect streets near every school in the city with speed cameras, it would be a significant improvement in two ways.

In addition to increasing the number of locations from 140 to 200, or 43 percent, the bill would fix a major flaw in the current program by allowing cameras to be placed within a quarter mile radius of schools, instead of within a quarter mile of a school entrance on the street abutting the school. Without this fix, cameras often can’t be placed on the streets where speeding poses the greatest risk near schools, since those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

But instead of allowing speed cameras to operate at all times, as Glick’s original bill would have, the compromise defines the hours of enforcement as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In practice, this would be an increase of an hour or two compared to the current law, which limits camera enforcement to hours during school activities.

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NYC Students Rally for Speed Cameras at Every School. Where Is Jeff Klein?

With time running out on the legislative session in Albany, NYC students and parents gathered at City Hall this morning to call on the state legislature to expand the city’s life-saving speed camera program. Pending legislation in Albany would allow New York City to effectively enforce the speed limit at all of its schools, but it currently lacks support from State Senator Jeff Klein, who holds the key to getting the bill through the state legislature.

“We know [cameras] are effective when it comes to changing the reckless behavior of drivers,” said Families for Safe Streets member Sofia Russo, a school teacher whose daughter Ariel was killed by a reckless driver in 2013.

State Senator Jeff Klein has been critical to establishing NYC’s automated speed enforcement program, but he hasn’t signed on to a bill that would expand it to every school.

In a 14-month span, reckless drivers killed three students from M.S. 51 in Brooklyn. Many of the children at the rally were their classmates. “The school children that are here today are joining us because at such a young age they have already known loss,” Russo said. “This should never happen. No child should die while walking to school.”

Automated enforcement has proven effective at reducing the incidence of speeding, which is a leading cause of traffic deaths in the city. Speeding declined 60 percent where the city’s current 140 cameras have been installed, according to NYC DOT. But with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of them have no automated speed enforcement nearby.

Current state law limits New York City to 140 speed cameras that can only be operated within a half-mile of a school, and only during school activities. Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, would address those shortcomings by allowing NYC to install speed cameras at every schools at all times.

Public Advocate Letitia James and council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Brad Lander spoke in support of Glick’s bill this morning.

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Get Ready for Next Week’s Speed Cam Rally With This Streetfilms Comic

camcomic

The campaign to get Albany to allow speed cameras outside every school in NYC is gaining steam.

Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s bill now has companion legislation in the Senate, introduced by Jose Peralta. The bill would allow any school to have automated speed enforcement without the current time of day restrictions, and would remove Albany’s 2018 sunset provision, making the city’s speed camera program permanent.

Last month Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark joined Manhattan’s Cy Vance, Brooklyn’s Ken Thompson, and Queens’s Richard Brown in endorsing speed camera legislation [PDF], making Staten Island’s Michael McMahon the sole NYC DA who hasn’t publicly called for speed cameras in every city school zone.

Twenty-five City Council members and Public Advocate Tish James introduced a resolution urging Albany to remove arbitrary restrictions on speed cameras in New York City. Council members also asked Governor Cuomo to support expanding the program.

Next Thursday, June 9, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will rally at City Hall to demand that state lawmakers to pass Glick’s bill. As of today the Senate version has no cosponsors.

The rally will start at 8:40 Thursday morning. You can RSVP here.

In the meantime, check out the latest Streetfilms Comic from Gary Eckerson, who lays bare the absurd arguments against slowing down drivers in school zones.

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Van Bramer + 24 Council Members Call on Albany to Allow More Speed Cams

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer standing in support of speed cameras at every school earlier this month alongside Transportation Alternatives' Paul Steely White and members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (second from left) with Transportation Alternatives Director Paul White, Public Advocate Tish James, and members of Families for Safe Streets calling for speed cameras at every school earlier this month. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, 24 of his colleagues, and Public Advocate Letitia James are calling on the state legislature to expand NYC’s life-saving automated speed enforcement program.

Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Deborah Glick, would allow New York City to expand its speed camera program to every school in the five boroughs. It would also allow the cameras to operate at all hours, instead of only during school activities, and make the program permanent (it’s currently set to expire in 2018).

Van Bramer introduced a resolution yesterday with 25 co-sponsors calling on the state legislature to do away with the limit on the number of speed cameras NYC can employ. A separate resolution from Council Member Carlos Menchaca, with eight co-sponsors, calls for the elimination of the time-of-day restrictions on automated speed enforcement.

Van Bramer, James, and the two dozen other sponsors of the resolution — including Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson and Deputy Leader for Policy Brad Lander — also sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to support the expansion of the speed camera program [PDF].

“All pedestrians, particularly children, are at a heightened risk of traumatic injury and death in speed-related crashes,” the letter says.

State law currently limits the city to 140 speed cameras for its 6,000 miles of streets. The cameras can only be used during school activities — even though most fatal crashes occur at night.

Speeding has dropped by 60 percent in locations with automated enforcement since the city first began using the cameras in 2013, according to NYC DOT. In 2014 and 2015, traffic deaths in New York City reached historic lows, but more than 200 people each year still lose their lives to motor vehicle crashes on city streets.

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Majority of NYC DAs Agree: All City Schools Should Have Speed Cameras

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown

Three New York City district attorneys have endorsed Albany legislation that would allow New York City to install speed enforcement cameras outside every school.

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown, the top prosecutors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, respectively, sent separate letters to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Transportation Chair David Gantt, and Manhattan Assembly Member Deborah Glick in support of Assembly Bill 9861. Introduced by Glick, the bill would allow any school to have automated speed enforcement with no time of day restrictions. The bill would also make the program permanent.

Currently, NYC is limited to 140 speed cameras to cover the entire city, leaving streets used by over a million kids without enforcement to slow speeding drivers. Cameras can only be used during school hours, and the program would sunset in 2018. Tickets carry a $50 fine with no license or insurance points and are only issued to drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones by 11 mph or more.

Speeding is down by 60 percent in areas covered by existing cameras, according to DOT. Extending camera coverage to all city schools could save 100 lives and prevent 2,700 crashes and 1,400 serious injuries annually, according to Transportation Alternatives.

“As Brooklyn’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to protecting pedestrians and holding drivers accountable for injuries caused by their reckless driving,” wrote Thompson. “The increased presence of speed cameras in our neighborhoods is a necessary tool in helping keep Brooklyn students and pedestrians safe.”

“My top priority as a prosecutor is public safety, and the effectiveness of school zone speed cameras in protecting New York City children and pedestrians is undeniable,” said Vance. “Speed cameras have proven to be an inexpensive way to slow down drivers and save lives.”

“Speeding is a leading cause of injury-related death for children in my county and throughout New York,” Brown wrote. “Getting drivers to slow down will reduce these injuries and deaths.”

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NYC Students Tell Albany: Speed Cameras at #EverySchool Will Save Lives

“Not one more.” Street safety advocates and students join Assembly Member Deborah Glick in calling on Albany to allow speed cameras at every school in NYC. Photo: Brad Aaron

“Not one more.” Street safety advocates and students join Assembly Member Deborah Glick in calling on Albany to allow speed cameras at every school in NYC. Photo: Brad Aaron

Students from MS 51 in Brooklyn joined family and friends of people killed by New York City drivers in Albany today to ask state lawmakers to allow the city to install speed cameras outside every school.

Organized by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, about 140 New Yorkers met with legislators to drum up support for Assembly Bill 9861. Introduced by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, the bill would let any school have automated speed enforcement without restrictions on hours of camera operation. Glick’s bill, which only pertains to NYC, would also remove a sunset provision, now set for 2018, making the city’s speed camera program permanent.

State law currently limits NYC to deploying just 140 speed cameras, which can be used in school zones during school hours only, though most fatal crashes occur at night. Tickets are not issued unless a driver is exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph or more, and the penalty is $50 with no license or insurance points.

Speeding is down by 60 percent at camera locations, according to DOT, but the narrow scope of the program leaves the vast majority of NYC’s 6,000 miles of streets without enforcement. Streets that kids cross every day to get to school have no cameras to deter speeding.

Advocates and lawmakers who have signed on to Glick’s bill want to expand enforcement for the million-plus children who at any given time attend schools that don’t have cameras. Extending camera coverage to all NYC schools would save 100 lives and prevent 2,700 crashes and 1,400 serious injuries annually, according to TA.

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Mothers Who Lost Kids Call on Albany to Allow Speed Cams at Every School

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at city hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, six mothers who lost their children to traffic violence — Amy Cohen, Ellen Foote, Judy Kottick, Dana Lerner, Lizi Rahman, and Sofia Russo — spoke on the steps of City Hall, calling on Albany to expand automated speed enforcement in New York City.

Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives will go to the state capitol tomorrow to build support for Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s bill to expand the city’s speed camera program.

Current state law limits NYC’s speed cameras to 140 locations. The cameras must be placed within a quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts it. Moreover, enforcement is limited to school hours, providing no deterrent during the night, when fatal crashes are more likely.

Glick’s bill would address those flaws by removing the limit on the number of schools where cameras can be sited, allowing them to operate 24/7, and making the program permanent. (It is currently set to expire in 2018.)

“We have an epidemic of drivers that are not slowing down, and children are being killed,” said Lerner, whose 9-year-old son Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a cab driver who violated his right-of-way in a crosswalk at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

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