With just two weeks before NYC has to turn off its 140 speed cameras, State Senator Marty Golden today “publicly” called on Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the Senate for a vote on the Every School Speed Camera Act, which brings the number of school zones where speed cameras are allowed up to 290 and renews the program through 2022.
“Senator Golden is publicly calling on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the Senate and call a vote,” Golden spokesperson John Quaglione said in a statement shared with the Brooklyn Reporter. “Senator Golden believes that anything short of a vote by the Senate before July 25th, to support the continuation and expansion of speed cameras throughout New York City, would be an unacceptable failure for the people of New York.”
Strong words, but Golden’s MO this session has been to make a show of support for the speed camera bill so he can plausibly avoid blame for its failure in Albany. Until there’s actually a vote in the State Senate, Golden can say whatever he wants without having to prove that he means it.
Golden signed on as a co-sponsor of the speed camera bill in May, which made State Senator Simcha Felder appear to be the final serious holdout among the Senate majority. But with enough votes to pass the bill, it made little sense that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan would deny a floor vote if Golden — the senior NYC Republican in his caucus — truly supported it. The session ended without a floor vote.
By signing on as a sponsor, Golden could appear to support popular legislation (speed cameras poll at 88 support according to a recent survey commissioned by Transportation Alternatives) in an election year while still letting the bill die. The speed cameras that have issued $700 in fines to Golden’s Cadillac would still go dark.
The lack of action on the speed camera bill has pleased one organized constituency: the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest union representing uniformed NYPD cops, which has donated $19,200 to Golden’s campaign and $68,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee since 2015. As long as there was no floor vote, Golden would never have to put his ostensible support for the bill to the test and displease his sponsors in the PBA.
Golden also let the mask slip in the waning days of the regular legislative session, adding his name to a bill from Felder and Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza that would end the speed camera program after six months and using the funds raised during that time on stop signs and traffic lights. It was a diversion, not a serious proposal and not the kind of thing that a speed camera supporter would lend his name to.
Advocates from Families for Safe Streets called Golden out. On June 29, they held a 24-hour vigil outside his office to demand action. Golden was a no-show.
It’s possible the pressure has finally gotten to Golden. If that’s the case, the proof will be in an actual Senate vote. Without a vote, it’s just an empty gesture.
“We’re pleased to see that Senator Golden has finally decided to heed the calls of his constituents, victims of traffic violence, and people from across New York City, who have put consistent pressure on him over the last several weeks to use his influence in the Senate to prevent the city’s proven speed safety camera program from expiring,” TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement. “There is more than enough support to get the bill passed and on to Governor Cuomo’s desk, but Senator Flanagan needs to let the New York Senate vote their conscience on this life-saving bill.”
If Flanagan demurs, Governor Cuomo has the power to call a special session to bring the Senate back to Albany to pass the bill. Cuomo could call a session right now and ramp up the pressure on Republicans to pass the bill.
Cuomo himself has received $42,000 from the PBA since the start of 2015, and the governor has shown little urgency to get the bill passed before the speed camera program expires. Last month, he told reporters his priority was to get the bill passed by the time school starts in September. But thousands of students continue to use school facilities for summer school and other activities.