BAY RIDGE – Brooklyn officials and the NYPD gathered at Fontbonne Academy Hall in Bay Ridge on Wednesday, September 4, to hail the installation of additional school zone speed cameras to both slow down drivers and decrease crashes.
Twenty bicyclists have been killed thus far this year, including one on Labor Day intentionally run down by an irate motorist in Bushwick who accused him of trying to break into his vehicle.
Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Keith Bray joined NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan at Fontbonne Academy on Shore Road to state that the new school zone cameras in Brooklyn would cut down on traffic crashes and make children safer when they go to school.
“We are dramatically expanding the life-saving cameras. You can see that on 99th Street and 3rd Avenue, just a block away where it was not allowed previously,” Bray said. “The focus is on protecting the most vulnerable, our kids and seniors, and so the speed cameras are a great thing. We have found that 80 percent of those who get one ticket, don’t get a second one, and there is 60 percent less speeding.”
Bray said he expects the additional installation of 40 cameras per month in the city, and then 60 per month in 2020.
Bray applauded the state legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo for not only renewing the program, but “making it even stronger.” He said not only will the program grow, but the cameras will function double the number of hours—from 6 am to 10 pm year-round. They were formerly only active during school hours.
NYPD Chief Chan called the cameras “necessary steps to protect our children.”
“Motorists must understand the consequences of dangerous driving and our analysis points to speed as the number one reason for accidents,” Chan said. “As school opens, the public can expect speed camera enforcement throughout the city and NYPD officers will target speeding around schools, distracted driving, and failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. You can also expect further dedicated enforcement of other safety initiatives including keeping bus lanes and bike lanes and crosswalks clear. Aggressive driving and speeding will be our focus in September, and you can expect that throughout the year because one injury or even one fatality is unacceptable.”
Published reports recently revealed that both city employees and even off-duty NYPD officers have been getting large numbers of speed camera summonses. Both Chan and Bray said they have been strongly encouraging officers and employees to slow down, and if they get speed camera tickets with city vehicles and can’t give a proper explanation, they will be responsible to pay the summonses.
“City vehicles caught by red light and speed cameras get a notice violation sent to us, and then the one who is driving that vehicle will have to pay,” Bray said. “We tell our employees not to speed and to drive carefully. They are very aware of that.”
“We encourage driving safely,” Chan explained. “If you pay attention at intersections, making right turns or left turns, there is a high probability of reducing headaches of liability and litigation. I’ve asked officers to target that violation. If you don’t yield you will have problems. When a vehicle connects with a pedestrian, the pedestrian always loses, and they don’t want that headache or heartache.”
State Senator Andrew Gounardes, a lead sponsor on the camera expansion legislsation, hailed the installation of the additional cameras as a step towards safer streets. He said a crash the night before several blocks from this location was also caused by speeding drivers, and the new cameras will discourage this behavior.
“Renewing and expanding the successful school zone cameras was important and we know the data and facts and we know that the speed cameras work,” Gounardes said. “We know we are keeping every single student and those who work in the schools safer. There is a speeding epidemic so we’ve got to get people to slow the heck down, so people will have to get there five minutes later.”
Joining the public officials were representatives of Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and members of Fontbonne Academy, including the principal, Mary Ann Spicijaric and several students.
Isabella Chirico, a student at Fontbonne, said she is relieved to know that getting to school will be safer. “It is nice knowing the cameras are out there and that people will be aware of where they are driving,” Chirico said. “We just want everyone to get to school safely every day, so people should slow down.”
State law allows the city to install speed cameras in 750 school zones, with more than 2000 cameras to be installed by the end of the installation period. The city plans to ramp up to the full 750 locations by next summer. There are also currently 40 mobile cameras that change positions each day.
The mayor’s office revealed there were 198,000 speed camera violations issued in July alone.