Speaker’s office? More like speeder’s office.
Cars belonging to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office have been caught speeding by traffic cameras an astounding seven times since 2016, including two times in 2019, according to data scraped by traffic-ticket bot HowsMyDriving.
The Speaker’s office confirmed the violations.
“While the Speaker was not the driver of this vehicle, he is very disappointed and has spoken to the staff members who were operating the vehicle,” Mike Whyland, the communications director for Heastie’s office, told Streetsblog. “He reminded them that reason we passed the speed-camera legislation was to ensure the safety of students and the public, and that these violations are unacceptable.”
The staffers, who paid for their own tickets, according to Whyland, won’t face any consequences beyond the Speaker’s lecture on safe driving. Whyland declined to identify them publicly.
The saga began on Sunday, when Albany-based reporter Joe Mahoney shared a picture on Twitter of Governor Cuomo cruising around the capital in a blue Pontiac GTO. Seeing the interesting picture, a Twitter user ran the car’s license plate, “1,” through @HowsMyDriving.
According to the data scraped by the bot, the license plate has seven school-zone speeding tickets attached to it. That wasn’t definitive, however. Plugging the coordinates “NY:1” into the bot will scrape the data for all kinds of plates, and “there may be multiple ‘1’ NY plates,” HowsMyDriving creator Brian Howald noted.
A closer look at the data that the Twitter bot processed showed that the violations did not belong to the blue Pontiac the governor was driving. All seven speed-zone violations had accrued, in fact, to cars with New York Assembly plates, first a black 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and then a black 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe.
The Twitter chatter about governor’s GTO and its “vanity” license plate prompted a retort from Albany lobbyist Evan Stavisky, who tweeted that “1” isn’t simply a macho, vanity license-plate number; it’s the plate number given to leaders in the executive and legislative branches — in this case, the Speaker of the Assembly. (Even many New York counties and municipalities dole out low license-plate numbers as a perk of office.)
not a vanity plate, per se. That plate is traditionally the governor's and the other low-number plates are traditionally for the other statewide officerholders. Similar to the Senate 1 and Assemby 1 plates being for leadership.
— Evan Stavisky (@EvanStavisky) September 8, 2019
The news that the violations attached to cars used by the Speaker ticked off City Council Member Brad Lander, who’s sponsoring the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, a bill that would impound any car receiving more than five moving violations in one year in New York City.
“Part of the goal of bringing visibility to reckless driving is to hold everyone accountable,” Lander told Streetsblog. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a council member, or a police officer, or the mayor — you have a responsibility to drive like your neighbors are human beings. Most drivers, if they get one of those violations, slow down and don’t get a second one. And that is the kind of behavioral change we want from everyone.”
Although all seven violations occurred in the confines of New York City, either in the Bronx or in Brooklyn, because the staffer or staffers who sped in Heastie’s cars didn’t amass five tickets in a single year neither car would have been booted if Lander’s bill became law. It doesn’t make the driving any less dangerous, however.
Drivers trigger speed cameras in New York City when they are moving at least 11 miles an hour above the speed limit of 25 miles an hour — that is, at 36 miles an hour or more. The chances of a pedestrian dying from the impact of a car moving more than 30 miles per hour is much greater than at lower speeds; the high probability of killing a pedestrian at such speeds, in fact, has prompted calls to cap city speed limits at 20 miles an hour.
Heastie, of course, is not the only New York City politician who’s been nailed for unsafe driving. The personal car of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams had an astonishing 27 school-zone speeding tickets attached to it from 2013 through 2018. Williams first said that the news of his tickets was a political attack, but later apologized for the dangerous driving in an interview with Streetsblog, and later tweeted “I’ve accepted responsibility and will change behavior to protect our kids.”
Arch-speed-camera foe, then-State Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn was dinged for 10 school-zone speeding tickets and two red-light-camera violations from 2015 through 2017.
Mayor de Blasio’s drivers also have been caught speeding and rolling through stop signs; in one instance, the mayor’s driver crashed in Manhattan and tried to cover it up — embarrassing his boss. The behavior hasn’t ended: A Brooklyn resident tweeted on Tuesday morning that he saw the mayor’s SUV being driven recklessly through a crosswalk in Park Slope.
What’s the point of #visionzero if @NYCMayor’s SUV is going to stop halfway in the crosswalk to wait for a turning car, then push through after the light has changed. We both got our workouts in at @ProspectParkY, but I didn’t need another one in the street dodging his caravan.
— Charlie O'Donnell (@ceonyc) September 10, 2019
Hasty Heastie Staff Sped Through School Zones in Speaker’s Cars