It kept coming up cameras during the week, giving glimpses of an increasingly out-of-focus New York full of backward plans and meaningless signs.
Start with the 132 motorist and passenger deaths last year, up 50% from before the pandemic, according to the Mayor’s Management Report, with many of those deaths resulting from the insanely dangerous driving many New Yorkers now regularly see and hear.
Those deaths were up even as the number of summonses for moving violations and arrests for DWIs are both down by more than 50% since the pandemic began.
The speed cameras that Albany’s hostage-taking lawmakers are finally letting the city run around the clock are supposed to pick up the slack. But while they generate revenue, it’s not clear how much they do to keep the public safe — not least because many of the most dangerous drivers damage their plates or purchase covers and sprays on Amazon or eBay to render them unreadable.
The result is cameras that do more to stop the schnook briefly getting up to 38 mph in a 25 mph zone (or, reportedly, Mayor Adams’ security detail) than the “champ” hitting 130 mph on the Belt Parkway.
In podunk places like Ferguson, law enforcement really has been a revenue game — one with horrific consequences. That hasn’t been so true in New York City, but the reliance on cameras is a step in that direction.
Speaking of revenue, Amazon finally yielded in August and said it would halt sales of plate blockers to New Yorkers — eight months after the city passed a law banning them. That should help, but it’s also a reminder of why cameras can’t simply replace traffic enforcement.
It’s also a reminder that the only way to get these online commerce giants to address the social disruptions their business models cause — like effectively subsidizing the city’s shoplifting blitzkrieg by creating a vast and scarcely regulated market for middlemen reselling stolen goods they’ve purchased for dimes on the dollar — is to apply political and regulatory pressure until their bottom line is better off doing the right thing.
Much the same applies to politicians, who are only going to deliver as much as voters hold them to account for, which is even more challenging in a state where Democrats are numerically dominant and most elections are functionally decided in low-turnout primaries.
Back to cameras, Gov. Hochul, doing her best to spend and whistle her way to a full term in November without engaging her political opponents, delivered another bizarre announcement Tuesday.
“You think Big Brother’s watching you on the subways? You’re absolutely right. That is our intent,” she said, presumably joking, while announcing a plan to put cameras on every train car by 2025.
She added, presumably seriously, that “We are going to be having surveillance of activities on the subway trains, and that is going to give people great peace of mind.”
If you say so, gov. Clearly, the malfunctioning platform cameras that failed to capture the N train shooter who then transferred to the R train before freely walking around the city for a day, passing lots of other cameras, did not “give people great peace of mind.”
More broadly, there were nearly as many felony crimes in the subway system, which already has cameras all over the platforms, in FY22 as there were before the pandemic even as the “record” ridership last month was still down more than 30% from the pre-pandemic weekday average.
Hochul’s Big Brother boast came a couple of weeks after she’d ended the state’s mask mandate for the trains, long after many people had simply stopped wearing them and any enforcement had disappeared.
The governor wasn’t making policy so much as belatedly acknowledging reality, which she still managed to screw up by touting new MTA signs mocking their old ones by re-using the same images that had reminded people to wear their masks properly with updated language declaring it’s all fine now so “you do you.”
Increasingly, governance in New York seems to be defined by meaningless signs — Gun Free Zone ones taped to light poles around Times Square, a No Skateboarding one next to the skateboarders by the arch in Washington Square Park — and “plans” that start with the outcome and then try to backfill the pesky details.
The plan to close Rikers is predicated on the inmate population continuing to decline, with no plan at all for what to do now that the population is up. The congestion pricing plan (which also depends on cameras) is a revenue number in search of a policy, with no word yet on what the charge will be or who will have to pay it.
Eventually, the cart ends up in front of the horse while the riders consult a map that no longer relates to the territory.
Until then, the hacks in power are happy to turn things over to the cameras, collect the cash those bring in and hope for the best.