STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — For the first time ever, New York City’s school zone speed cameras can now legally operate around-the-clock.
On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill to extend and expand the city’s speed camera program until July 2025, allowing the automated enforcement tools to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“I want to thank all the lawmakers who have worked so hard to make this possible, because New Yorkers don’t just deserve safe streets at certain hours of the day. We need to use every tool at our disposal, and far too many of our children have been killed by cars to not reauthorize and expand this life-saving program,” Hochul said.
Previously, speed cameras had only been permitted to operate on weekdays, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Although the new legislation takes effect immediately, a city Department of Transportation official told the NY Daily News that the agency needs time to put structures in place for a 24-hour program. That means the cameras in New York City won’t roll overnight until full implementation over the coming months.
Other core aspects of the program remain unchanged, as the speed cameras, which must be placed within a quarter-mile radial distance from a school building, will continue issuing $50 fines to drivers who exceed the posted speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour.
Hochul was joined by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the expansion bills in their respective houses of the state legislature.
“Tonight at 10:01 p.m., for the first time since speed cameras were authorized in New York City nine years ago, the cameras will be operational during weekends and for 24 hours a day. This will undoubtedly save lives in New York City,” Gounardes said.
“As the original sponsor for the school zone speed camera legislation, I am proud to have enhanced this life-saving program back in 2019 and once again this year. By allowing this data-backed proven technology to encourage safe driving at all hours of the day, the streets around our schools will be safer and lives will be saved,” Glick added.
Mayor Eric Adams, who has advocated for 24/7 speed camera operation alongside Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez in recent months, celebrated the landmark victory.
“Traffic safety is public safety, and speed cameras save lives — now we can use this proven tool 24/7. This Monday, we saw once again the reality of traffic violence in our city. If our streets aren’t safe, our city isn’t safe. This is how we protect our streets, save lives, and make New York City safer,” the mayor said.
Critics of the city’s speed cameras, including Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) and Councilman David Carr (R-Mid-Island), both of whom voted against a City Council resolution on the program’s expansion, have questioned the efficacy of cameras, claiming the city is more concerned with generating revenue than bolstering public safety.
“The cameras haven’t worked; we have seen more deaths now than before,” Borelli said at the time. “I can’t get a stop sign, speed bump, or sidewalk installed, but DOT comes like gangbusters if it’s a camera or a bike lane.”
Carr added: “Nearly 10 years after these speed cameras were first introduced to our streets, and then expanded almost 40 fold, the number of traffic deaths in this city is nearly identical. Are they slowing some people down? Maybe the conscientious drivers, who are not the problem.”
“But they don’t address the actual reckless drivers and scofflaws who are causing the problems. This is about money not public safety. We can find ways to make our roads safer for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists without picking the pockets of Staten Islanders and New Yorkers,” he continued.
However, city officials have repeatedly emphasized that the speed cameras are intended to serve as a critical public safety measure, as opposed to a source of revenue.
City data shows that, as of December 2020, speeding has dropped by an average of 72% at locations where the cameras have been installed, with injuries falling by 14%.
The cameras have also shown to deter repeated speeding offenses, with the majority of vehicles only receiving one or two violations since the program began in 2014.
Additionally, in 2021, more than half of the vehicles that received a speed camera violation did not receive a second one.
Earlier this year, Adams advocated for the state to grant New York City “home rule” over the city’s streets, which would have included the ability to make changes to the speed camera program without seeking state legislative approval.
However, the signed legislation did not include a home rule provision, meaning the program will again need to be extended by the state legislature before it expires on July 1, 2025.
An earlier version of the bill also would have stiffened the penalties for drivers who were repeatedly caught speeding, with a graduating fine structure and potential suspension of vehicle registration for repeat offenders.
The new fine structure would have cost drivers more with each violation obtained within a two-year period.
The first two violations would have carried a fine of $50, with a fine of $100 for a third violation, $200 for a fourth violation, $300 for a fifth violation and $500 for a sixth and any subsequent violations.
In addition to the increasing fines, if a vehicle were to receive six violations within a two-year period, the vehicle’s registration would have been suspended for 90 days.
However, those provisions were removed prior to the legislation being approved by the state legislature, meaning fines will remain at $50 for all speed camera violations, with no threat of suspended registration.
STATEN ISLAND SPEED CAMERAS
The Staten Island Advance/SILive.com recently analyzed speed camera violation records that are publicly available on the city’s Open Data page to determine which locations have issued the most tickets.
The data reflects all speed camera violations that have been issued on Staten Island from Jan. 1, 2022, through Apr. 26, 2022, the last date available on the city’s Open Data page.
During that time, violations were issued at over 200 locations throughout the borough, though the DOT’s refusal to provide locations for speed cameras leaves it unclear how many of the locations have permanent cameras and how many were issued by mobile units.
Over the nearly four-month span, speed cameras on Staten Island issued a total of 76,614 school zone speed camera violations, according to city records.
At $50 per violation, that represents $3,830,700 in revenue generated by the city during that time.
During that time period, speed cameras were only permitted to operate on weekdays, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
From Jan. 1 through April 26, there were a total of 82 weekdays, meaning Staten Island’s speed cameras issued an average of roughly 934 violations each day that the cameras were permitted to operate.
With cameras only allowed to ticket motorists for 16 hours each weekday, that means that when the cameras were on, they issued approximately 58 violations per hour, nearly one each minute.