Push to Expand Speed Cameras Mired in Albany Politics

A camera mounted outside Public School 124 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is part of a program designed to discourage speeding in school zones in New York City.

Not too long ago, classes at Public School 124 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, were routinely interrupted by the sounds of speeding cars — drivers gunning their engines to try to make the green lights along Fourth Avenue. Then in 2015 came the first speed camera mounted in front of the elementary school.

Today, most of the cars pass by quietly — and slowly.

P.S. 124 is one of 140 schools across New York City that are part of a program to use cameras to catch drivers who exceed the typically 25-mile-per-hour speed limit on city streets. City officials say the cameras have been effective in slowing down traffic around schools, and along with advocates they are mounting a campaign for the state, which controls traffic enforcement rules, to expand the program significantly.

But it is not even clear that the Legislature will vote to continue the existing program, which lawmakers must approve by the end the legislative session next month, let alone approve broadening the enforcement. Proponents argue that more measures need to be taken to make the city’s streets safer — in the first five months of this year, 37 pedestrians were killed by vehicles.

“The effectiveness of speed cameras is as clear as one plus one equaling two,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an emailed statement. “There’s no room for debate and there’s no time to waste. With a little over a month left in session, it’s time for Albany to do what they know works and renew and expand protection of N.Y.C. students.”

But some critics question the program’s effectiveness, arguing that the cameras have turned some streets into speed traps and cash cows for the city. Between 2014 and 2016, the cameras, which are only used during school hours, resulted in more than $122 million in violations.

The principal of P.S. 124, Annabell Burrell, is a strong advocate of the camera program: “If you’re really serious about protecting children in schools, this needs to be happening everywhere that there is a school,” she said.

During the first month of the program at P.S. 124, the cameras resulted in nearly 250 summonses a day being imposed on drivers whizzing past. About two years after the installation of the cameras, that number had dropped to 54 summonses every day, a nearly 80 percent decline, making…

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