A skeptic calls for speed-camera experimentation on McGuinness Boulevard

The intersection of McGuinness Boulevard and Green Street. (bitchcakesny via Flickr)
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Thanks to "all of the accidents and deaths," Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a one-time speed camera skeptic, on Wednesday renewed his call for Albany to approve the traffic-calming devices along four-lane McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint.

"I think that it’s about time we tried it," he said.

Earlier this year, Lentol introduced a bill in the Assembly authorizing, "the City of New York to install and operate photo radar devices on McGuinness Boulevard."

Nothing much came of it, but Lentol says he's intent on rallying support for the bill before the next session begins.

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"Maybe we ought to start early... just to try and get some interest," he says.

Lentol is not an obvious sponsor of this sort of legislation, as he himself admits.

He didn't sign on to his colleague Deborah Glick's attempt, backed by the Bloomberg administration, to get Albany to authorize up to 40 speed cameras on city streets, an effort that has failed to gain enough traction in the legislature.

His initial dubiousness, he said, was based on his concern that such devices would be used as "revenue-raising measures," rather than reduce speeding.

“I haven’t really been a great fan of having speed cameras," he said. "I really was not a big fan in the beginning for red light cameras. But I think we really have to take measures to save lives.”

And he thinks McGuinness Boulevard would serve as a good location for a pilot program measuring speed cameras' efficacy in New York City.

At the present, New York City has red-light cameras and bus-lane enforcement cameras, but no cameras designed to catch drivers speeding.

In March, Transportation Alternatives released a study finding that 66 percent of McGuinness Boulevard drivers broke the 30 miles per hour speed limit. 

Also, as per the report:

According to data from the New York State Department of Transportation, from 2005-2009 there were 57 crashes involving motorists crashing into pedestrians or bicyclists, an average of nearly one crash per month. Of the 57 crashes, 44 involved pedestrians—resulting in one pedestrian death. The remaining 13 crashes involved bicyclists and resulted in three bicyclist deaths.

At the same time, citywide, the number of traffic fatalities has risen, and the NYPD has come under fire for failing to properly investigate accidents in which the victims don't die, or are not considered likely to.

Lentol argues that, what with the increased number of people in his district (10,000, more, he says, in the past ten years), and the increased use of city roads for cycling, more needs to be done to slow down drivers.

Asked what prompted him to change his mind on speed cameras, Lentol cited, "all of the accidents and deaths that are occurring."

Of course, absent speed cameras, there are other traffic calming tools available.

"Specific improvements along McGuinness Boulevard have included the installation of pedestrian countdown signals throughout the corridor as well as the addition of channelization and a parking lane stripe to narrow the moving lanes and calm traffic," said D.O.T. spokesman Nicholas Mosquera, in an emailed statement. "This Spring, D.O.T. also placed a speed board between Nassau Avenue and Heron Street to remind drivers of the citywide 30mph speed limit and we look forward to working with the community on further safety improvements."