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Next Stop for Bill to Expand Bus Lane Cameras: Andrew Cuomo’s Desk

Last night, the State Senate followed the Assembly’s lead and passed a bill to continue New York City’s bus lane camera enforcement program and expand it to an additional 10 bus routes. The bill now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

34th Street before bus lane cams. Video still: Streetfilms/Robin Urban Smith

The Senate voted 48 in favor and 11 opposed. The day before, the bill squeaked through the Assembly, 79-60, with former speaker Sheldon Silver joining Staten Island legislators in calling bus lane cameras “a trap for motorists.”

The existing program was enacted by Albany in 2010 and limited the cameras to six Select Bus Service routes. Without an extension it will expire September 20. The new bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Nily Rozic and State Senator Martin Golden, not only extends the program five years but also allows the city to choose 10 additional bus routes for camera enforcement.

Camera-enforced bus lanes have boosted local bus speeds on 125th Street by up to 20 percent, according to DOT.

Some of New York’s most important bus lanes predate Select Bus Service and aren’t allowed to have camera enforcement under the current law. The Fifth Avenue bus lane, for instance, was implemented in the 1980s. It carries 90 buses per hour during the morning rush and moves 78,000 people daily, according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The number of Select Bus Service routes has also grown beyond the limits of the current program. SBS on Webster Avenue in the Bronx operates without camera enforcement, and planned SBS routes on Utica Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, and along the Q44 route in Flushing and Jamaica will only be eligible for bus lane cameras if Cuomo signs the new bill.

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Silver Fails to Stop Bus Lane Camera Bill in Assembly [Updated]

Update 10:06 p.m.: The story has been updated to reflect the final official vote tally in the Assembly of 79-60. Tonight, the Senate passed its companion bill with an unofficial vote tally of 51 in favor and 8 opposed.

The bill to preserve and expand the use of NYC’s bus lane enforcement cameras squeaked by in a rare contested vote in the Assembly yesterday afternoon. Former speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, sided against the bill, but it mustered only a few votes more than the minimum needed to pass and now goes to the State Senate.

Shelly Silver lets us know what he really thinks about bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube

The face of the opposition to bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube

The bill, sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Nily Rozic, would extend camera enforcement of bus lanes in New York City for another five years and expand the program from a maximum of six routes to as many as 16. In the Assembly, 76 votes are needed for a bill to pass, and Rozic’s bill garnered 79 votes to 60 against.

The Senate version is sponsored by Brooklyn Republican Martin Golden. Without action from the Senate, the enforcement program will expire on September 20.

Silver, whose district is served by the camera-enforced M15 bus, urged members to vote against the bill. “I think this clearly is a revenue enhancer for the City of New York and nothing else,” he said on the floor of the Assembly. “It is a trap for motorists.”

Silver led the Assembly when it first rejected bus lane cameras in 2008 and when it finally approved a limited program for New York City in 2010. Yesterday, he objected to the expansion of the program under Rozic’s bill, which would allow the city to use the cameras on 10 additional bus routes of its choosing.

With any NYC bus lane eligible for camera enforcement, bus riders on some of the busiest routes in the city could get faster trips. The Fifth Avenue bus lane, for instance, carries 90 buses per hour during the morning rush and transports 78,000 people each day, according to stats Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg cited on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning.

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Unless Albany Acts, NYC Bus Lanes Are About to Get Clogged With Cars

bmw_bus_lane

Get ready for more Beemers blocking bus lanes unless Albany renews the automated enforcement program for NYC. Video still of 34th Street before bus lane cams: Streetfilms/Robin Urban Smith

Five years ago, the state passed a bill allowing the city to install cameras that catch drivers who illegally use bus lanes on six Select Bus Service routes. Unless Albany acts soon, that legislation will expire and the cameras will have to be turned off at the end of this summer.

There’s a fix waiting to be voted on in the state legislature — and it would expand the cameras to more bus lanes. A bill sponsored in the Assembly by Nily Rozic and in the State Senate by Martin Golden would extend the bus lane cameras for another five years. Otherwise, the 2010 law would expire on September 20.

An earlier version of Rozic’s bill, which was submitted at the request of the de Blasio administration, asked for the power to install bus lane cameras on up to 20 additional routes of the city’s choosing [PDF]. That’s since been negotiated down. The bill now asks for up to 10 additional bus routes of the city’s choice, on top of the six specific SBS routes that qualified for cameras under the 2010 law.

The bill would also eliminate the weekend prohibition on bus lane cams, but continue to allow them only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The fine would remain at $115.

Rozic has also submitted a bill that offers a straight five-year extension of the existing, limited camera program. “It was just put in as a safety mechanism,” said Meagan Molina, Rozic’s legislative and communications director.

The city has maxed out its bus lane camera allowance in the current state law, installing them on routes along Fordham Road, First and Second Avenues, Nostrand and Rogers Avenues, 34th Street, Hylan Boulevard, and 125th Street. Other bus-only lanes, including on Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Fulton Street, Utica Avenue, Broadway, 181st Street, and Webster Avenue, operate without camera enforcement.

Bus lane cameras have been a key component in speeding bus trips. On 125th Street, for example, camera-enforced bus lanes have sped local service by up to 20 percent. The M60, which also received off-board fare collection as part of its SBS upgrade, is now up to 34 percent faster on 125th Street.

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Tell Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza the Lifesaving 25 MPH Bill Can’t Wait

Senators Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza need to hear from New Yorkers who want safer streets.

Senators Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza need to hear from New Yorkers who want safer streets. Photos: New York State Senate

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to urge key Senate lawmakers to get behind the bill to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour.

With just hours remaining in the current legislative session, it’s up to NYC’s two Senate Republicans, Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza, to convince Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to see this lifesaving bill passed. Neither Golden nor Lanza have responded to Streetsblog’s requests for comment, but Lanza told Capital New York today that his support for a lower NYC speed limit hinges on passage of a bill that would require stop signs near schools and increase fines for traffic violations in school zones.

While Lanza is horse-trading, Skelos is playing party politics. Senator Jeff Klein, who heads the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference and shares power with Skelos, says he expects the speed limit bill to pass, but Skelos has declined to say if he will bring it to the floor for a vote. Skelos indicated yesterday that Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to secure Democratic control of the State Senate will factor into his decision.

Depending on what emerges from the Senate, the Assembly is likely to act on one of two bills: a duplicate of Klein’s Senate bill, or a different 25 mph bill sponsored by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. Each has the backing of Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Lanza and Golden need to hear from New Yorkers who want a lower, safer speed limit in NYC. When asked if she had a message for senators today about the 25 mph bill, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg focused on the public safety benefits. “For every five miles that you slow down the speed of a car, you have some pretty dramatic effects on what happens when you have a collision,” Trottenberg said. “Even a car going five miles slower — the driver has more reaction time, the impact is that much lighter, and you get a 10 to 20 percent reduction in fatalities. So it’s pretty important.”

Here is contact info for NYC’s Republican senators at their Albany offices:

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Avella, Savino Back 25 MPH Bill — Now NYC Republicans Must Convince Skelos

Three men in a room: Can Marty Golden, left, and Andrew Lanza, center, convince Dean Skelos not to hold life-saving speed limits hostage? Photos: NY Senate

Do Marty Golden, left, and Andrew Lanza, center, want Skelos to hold a vote on the 25 mph bill? Photos: NY Senate

State Senator Tony Avella, who opposed an earlier bill to lower New York City’s default speed limit to 20 mph, says he will vote for Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein’s bill to set the limit at 25 mph. He’ll be joined by fellow IDC member Diane Savino, who will sign on as a co-sponsor. So it’s up to New York City’s two Republican state senators to convince Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to bring the bill up for a vote tomorrow, the final day of the legislative session.

Skelos has been noncommittal. “I don’t know if it will be on the floor. It is certainly one of the things we will be discussing,” he said earlier today, according to the Daily News. “I know how important it is to Mayor de Blasio and he’s certainly one of my best friends.”

The “best friends” comment from Skelos refers to de Blasio’s efforts to secure Democratic control of the State Senate, a goal that Governor Cuomo endorsed last month as part of a deal to earn the backing of the Working Families Party.

It’s up to New York City’s two Senate Republicans, Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza, to convince Skelos that this lifesaving bill should rise above party politics. Neither have responded to Streetsblog’s requests for comment.

Klein is confident the bill will pass tomorrow. “This bill is a top priority of mine and I expect it to pass by the end of session,” Klein said in a statement to the Daily News.

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Down to the Wire: Senate Could Vote on 25 MPH Speed Limit Tomorrow

Senators to watch: Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Dean Skelos. Photos: NY Senate

Senators to watch: Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Dean Skelos. Photos: NY Senate

Update: Tony Avella and Diane Savino have backed the 25 mph bill, leaving it up to Republicans Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza to convince Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to hold a vote on the bill.

Lowering New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph depends on the votes of a handful of key state senators tomorrow, the final day of the legislative session. Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein expects his bill to come up for a vote, according to WNYC, but the measure could become a victim of party politics.

The senators to keep an eye on are Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, and Diane Savino. None of them have responded to Streetsblog’s requests for comment. Golden and Lanza, the city’s two Republican senators, will likely determine the ultimate position of Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.

As members of the Klein-led Independent Democratic Conference, Avella and Savino occupy important spots in the Senate. Avella came out against an earlier 20 mph bill but hasn’t said anything about the 25 mph legislation now up for debate. Savino hasn’t said anything publicly, either, but reports from late last month indicated that she might back the bill.

You can contact the senators at their Albany offices:

Skelos, who shares power with Klein in a day-by-day agreement, remains noncommittal. “I don’t know if it will be on the floor. It is certainly one of the things we will be discussing,” he said, according to the Daily News. “I know how important it is to Mayor de Blasio and he’s certainly one of my best friends.”

Mayor de Blasio, you may remember, brokered an endorsement deal with the Working Families Party in which Governor Cuomo came out in favor of Democratic control of the Senate, a shift that would cost Skelos his position atop the chamber. Best friends, indeed.

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All Eyes on Senate as Families for Safe Streets Push for Lower Speed Limit

From left, Greg Thompson, Joy Clarke, DOT's Juan Martinez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers, Mary Beth Kelly, and Ellen Foote in Albany yesterday on a Families for Safe Streets visit to legislators. Photo: Families for Safe Streets/Twitter

From left, Greg Thompson, Joy Clarke, DOT’s Juan Martinez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers, Mary Beth Kelly, and Ellen Foote in Albany yesterday on a Families for Safe Streets visit to legislators. Photo: Families for Safe Streets/Twitter

Yesterday, five members of Families for Safe Streets were joined by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in Albany to build support for a bill to lower the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph. Advocates say Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is set to sign on as a sponsor, while City Hall and advocates continue to aim for support in the State Senate, potentially from Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein.

A source tells Streetsblog that Trottenberg met with Klein this morning, asking him to add his name to the legislation. As leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares power with Senate Republicans, Klein could put the bill over the top in the chamber. DOT and Klein’s office have not responded to questions about the meeting.

klein

The fate of legislation to reduce the default speed limit in NYC to 25 mph and make it easier to designate 20 mph streets may rest with State Senator Jeff Klein.

“I think he’s receptive to the change. He was a big, big supporter of speed cameras,” said Aaron Charlop-Powers, whose mother was was killed while riding her bike to work in the Bronx in 2010. “I’m hopeful that he’ll also emerge as a sponsor in this session.”

The bill seems to have a clear path to passage in the Assembly. Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives said Silver supports the 25 mph bill“We really heard there was commitment from him to move the bill forward with the speaker as the lead co-sponsor,” she said.

While Silver’s office has yet to return a request for comment, other members of the Assembly leadership are on the record signaling they will support the 25 mph bill. Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman “Denny” Farrell told Streetsblog yesterday that while he needed more information and assurances that it would not lead to unfair speed traps on major streets, he’s receptive to the bill. “That one I’ve got to hear more about,” he said. “I will probably vote for the 25 mph [bill].”

The bill already has the support of 38 Assembly members, including Codes Committee Chair Joe Lentol, Bronx Democratic Party leader Carl Heastie, and Harlem representative Keith Wright, who until recently was chair of the state Democratic Party.

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20 MPH Bills Gain Support in Albany, But Will Need Help From Key Senators

State bills to set the default speed limit in NYC at 20 miles per hour picked up several cosponsors Tuesday, including a Senate Republican, but key Senate leaders have not signed on.

Senators Jeff Klein and Marty Golden

Jeff Klein and Marty Golden could get 20 mph legislation through the State Senate. They have yet to sign on.

As of this morning, bills from Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan have at least 20 and 11 cosponsors, respectively. Those totals include some whose names were added yesterday, when Families for Safe Streets traveled to Albany to meet legislators face to face. At the end of the day, the group said, 15 lawmakers who were not cosponsors agreed to back the bills.

One of them was safe streets champion Joe Lentol, who spoke with grieving family members in his office Tuesday. Assembly Member Lentol was not aware he was not a cosponsor, but attached his name to the bill after the meeting. Speaking of his campaign to make deadly McGuinness Boulevard an arterial slow zone, Lentol said, “That’s just the beginning. We need to do more.”

In the Senate, city Democrats Michael Gianaris, Bill Perkins, and Jose Serrano signed on, as did Nassau Republican Carl Marcellino. Marcellino belongs to the Senate majority, but to clear the chamber the bill will probably need to pick up the support of either Marty Golden or Jeff Klein. Klein, of the Bronx, is Senate co-majority leader and heads the Independent Democratic Conference, and Golden is the leader of NYC’s Republican delegation.

At other meetings I attended, Assembly Member Barbara Clark, Democrat from Queens, and Republican David McDonough of Nassau County committed their support, but are not yet listed as cosponsors.

Members of Families for Safe Streets stressed yesterday the importance of getting the life-saving 20 mph bills passed this year. We will follow developments as the legislative session draws to a close in the coming weeks.

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Looks Like Marty Golden Is Holding Up Speed Cameras, Again

Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York reports that State Senator Marty Golden has again emerged as an obstacle to NYC speed cameras.

Marty Golden is the reason NYC should have local control of traffic cameras. Photo: NY Senate

On Monday the Assembly passed a bill that would allow the city to deploy 120 additional cameras, bringing the total to 140. We reported yesterday that the allocation of speed camera revenue was a possible point of contention in the Senate, which has moved the bill to the rules committee — the last stop before the Senate floor, where it would come to a vote.

From a CapNY story published this morning:

A knowledgeable source told Capital that Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden, a close ally of the police union, which fervently opposes speed cameras on the grounds that officers police streets better, is demanding the city agree to dedicate the revenue generated from the speed cameras to school safety initiatives, cops, and firemen, rather than to the city’s general fund.

Marty Golden is the leader of the NYC Senate delegation, and his support is critical to getting the bill passed. Golden objected to introducing speed cameras to NYC streets last year, but eventually voted in favor. Golden’s office did not respond when Streetsblog asked if he supports the current bill, and he didn’t comment for Capital New York.

It may sound like a good idea to dedicate this revenue to street safety initiatives, but city money is fungible. If speed cam revenue is set aside for specific items, other city funds can be shifted around to offset that. Plus, as NYC’s experience with red light cameras shows, these revenues decline over time as drivers adjust their behavior — you can’t budget based on them. Golden’s proposal is just another pointless reason to oppose a proven safety measure.

Golden’s reported tactic is exactly the reason NYC needs local control of its automated enforcement program. Street safety in New York City should not be held hostage to the vagaries of Albany politicking.

To wit: Any new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now. Though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends, state lawmakers have limited their effectiveness by mandating that they can only be used near schools during the school day.

The City Council transportation committee will take up a resolution later today asking Albany for local control of traffic cameras.

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Safety of NYC Streets Again Depends on State Senator Marty Golden

The Assembly yesterday passed legislation that would expand NYC’s speed camera program by 120 cameras, bringing the total to 140. The bill, which also allows speed cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was referred to the Senate rules committee this morning, bypassing the transportation committee. Rules is the last stop before a bill moves to the floor for a vote.

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo: NY Senate

As the leader of the NYC delegation, Marty Golden will be key to pushing this legislation through the Senate. Golden objected to introducing speed cameras to NYC streets last year, but eventually voted in favor of the small pilot program. Streetsblog has asked Golden’s office if he supports the current bill.

As it stands, new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now, which can only be used near schools during the school day, though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends.

“Passing this legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act quickly.” Governor Cuomo has signaled support for the bill.

Automated enforcement is an essential element of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan. From a statement issued by the mayor’s office Monday:

With the Assembly’s vote today, we are one step closer to the expansion of school slow zones throughout our city where we can install speed cameras, allowing us to protect our children and make our streets safer. This bill will truly save lives.

Speeding is one of the primary causes of pedestrian fatalities, and addressing this epidemic has been a priority for my administration from the beginning. We can no longer accept these fatalities as inevitable.

The Daily News reported today that the Senate “may push for several amendments.” A source tells Streetsblog that some Senate lawmakers may want to reduce the number of cameras, and are afraid that towns upstate will want cameras as well. How to spend the revenue is also reportedly a point of contention. CapNY reports that Queens Assembly rep Michael DenDekker, who voted for the bill, “suggested the revenue go toward hiring crossing guards.”

There appears to be no discussion among legislators on lifting restrictions on where and when NYC can use speed cameras in order to further reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths.

The City Council will take up a resolution Wednesday asking for local control of traffic cams.