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Albany Support For Speed Cameras Near Public Schools Took Great Effort

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TWC News: Albany Support For Speed Cameras Near Public Schools Took Great Effort
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New York City will soon begin a pilot program for speed cameras near public schools, and the bill authorizing them languished for years in Albany but finally passed last week after a major struggle. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Speed cameras automatically ticket drivers who break the speed limit near schools. Violators are sent a $50 ticket with no points on their licenses.

Supporters say there are all sorts of reasons to strictly enforce a 30 mph speed limit near schools.

"If you are hit by a car going 40 mph, there is a 70 percent chance you will die. If you are hit by a car going 30 mph, there is an 80 percent chance you will live," said Transportation Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan.

But lawmakers in Albany had to authorize the program. For years, there was opposition from Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gant from Rochester, who eventually relented and let the bill clear his committee. It also faced opposition from state Senator Martin Golden of Brooklyn.

During the debate on the bill in the Assembly, Golden was walking around the chamber having conversations with members. He declined to speak with NY1 at the time, but earlier in the month explained why he opposed the bill.

"There were a number of technology issues, so we'd like to see that the technology issues get addressed. And if they can be addressed, then we can move ahead with them," Golden said.

Critics said Golden's opposition was based on objections from the police union, which was worried about police officers being replaced with cameras.

"I think it's kind of naive to think we can have a police officer stationed in front of every school writing tickets," said State Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein.

Golden's opposition earlier this year led to public attacks from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Tuesday, the mayor softened his tone.

"Well, they did the right thing and they deserve the credit for it. I'm the first one to criticize when they do the wrong thing and the first one to support them when they do the right thing. That's what democracy is all about," Bloomberg said.

In the end, the bill passed the senate at 6 a.m. Saturday after an all-night session. Golden voted for it.

For now, speed cameras will be installed as part of a pilot program, but proponents of the first bill could open the door said getting the measure passed could open the door to more lights at a future point.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will sign the legislation.

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