Board Nixes Speed Camera Enforcement Proposal

An example of a speed camera (Source: DaveBleasdale/Flickr)

Community Board 15 overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to place cameras automating speed limit enforcement along the city’s most dangerous roadways, citing Big Brother and revenue manipulation concerns.

A five-year trial program is being pushed by Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit advocacy group for mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The plan would place a maximum of 40 cameras, similar to the currently installed red-light cameras, throughout the five boroughs in locations where speeding and speed-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities are prevalent. Owners of vehicles found to be driving in excess of the posted speed limit would receive fines, and the violations will be administered under the Parking Violations Bureau. The penalty will not include points against the violator’s insurance.

But the idea of more cameras keeping tabs on residents has some leaders feeling uncomfortable.

“It’s becoming a little too many cameras watching what individuals are doing, and on top of that you’ve already got red light cameras, you’ve got the police with license plate readers,” said Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, “How many more cameras do you need?”

The planned cameras would only photograph license plates and not drivers, but Scavo said her concerns extend beyond the Big Brother atmosphere it might create. She said many on the Board worried the that the state’s priorities would be on revenue, not safety.

“I think this is just going to be revenue generating the way the red light cameras are. They raise a lot of money, and the city’s in the hole right now, it would be a great way to revenue generate,” she said. “They’re really just trying to box people in the City of New York and money people out, a lot of people [on the Board] were thinking enough is enough.”

The Board was asked to vote on the proposal at their Wednesday night meeting. The Board’s recommendations will go to the Brooklyn Borough Board – comprised of leaders from each of the borough’s 18 Community Boards – who will then forward their concerns to members of the State Legislature, who must pass legislation to install the cameras.

But Transportation Alternatives has been fighting against the perception that this is about anything other than safety since at least 2003, when they created a fact sheet addressing many speed camera concerns. According to the group, 25 percent of motorists go at least 10 miles above the speed limit, creating a “deadly” situation. Documents from the group say that it would lower traffic speeds – and casualties – free up police resources, and reduce instances of discrimination and racial profiling.

A revenue generator it is not, according to Transportation Alternatives. They say New York City speed camera legislation would have a provision putting any revenues from a speed camera program back into the program, and a review of existing speed camera programs shows that none are bringing in significant revenues above costs. Nor is it Big Brother, since only the license plate is recorded and not the driver. They say that New Yorkers have become accustomed to red light cameras, which operate under the same principle, so “speed radar is no different.”

Meanwhile, they say, programs in London, Norway, Australia and a handful of smaller American municipalities have successfully reduced fatalities and the rate of speeding.

That’s not swaying the Community Board 15, though, as they seek to protect Southern Brooklyn’s commuters from the latest round of anti-auto initiatives from group’s like Transportation Alternatives.

“I personally think that [Transportation Alternatives’ membership] are not what New Yorkers are representative of,” said Scavo. “I don’t believe they’re from Southern Brooklyn. I think they’re Soho or Park Slope people who have no right to dictate how we live down here.”