MIDTOWN — The city collected a record $1.9 billion in fees and fines during the 2015 fiscal year, driven by an increase in motor vehicle violations connected to Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative and a jump in fines for things such as littering and noise pollution, according to a report from Comptroller Scott Stringer.
That's an increase of 5.5 percent over the $1.8 billion collected the year before and 13 percent increase from 2012 when the city collected $1.7 billion.
The city collected $957 million in fines in fiscal year 2015, an increase of 7.5 percent from the previous year and a 12 percent increase since 2012. Another $974 million was collected in fees, a 2 percent increase. Fines grew three times faster than fees from fiscal year 2014 to 2015.
But the largest jump in fines and fees came from red light, bus lane and speed cameras near schools.
Red light camera revenue, which has been on the decline since 2012, jumped $1 million to $29 million in fiscal year 2015. Meanwhile, bus lane camera revenue increased to $17 million from $12 million the year before and speed camera violations increased to $31 million from $2 million.
"The City plans to install an additional 100 speed cameras, facing the opposite direction of the existing 140 cameras, and install 100 new bus lane cameras along the 10 newly authorized routes over the next four years," the report says.
“The mayor’s successful effort to reduce pedestrian deaths through Vision Zero, for example, is reflected in enhanced enforcement of speed and bus lane cameras," Stringer said in a statement.
But attention must also be paid to "balancing the need for enforcement with fairness.”
De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said the increased Vision Zero-related fines "correlate with the city’s goals for limiting traffic injuries and fatalities."
Traffic deaths fell last year to a record low of 233, which the mayor attributed to his Vision Zero initiatives.
The city also collected more revenue from:
► 623,758 quality-of-life violations it issued during the last fiscal year. The city collected $150 million last year, up from $133 million the year before, an increase of 13 percent. More than two-thirds of these violations were for things such as dirty sidewalks and improper waste disposal, but the category also includes building code violations and bicycle riding infractions.
► 107,000 recycling summonses last year, which made up 17 percent of the total violations.
► Parking tickets, which raked in $565 million last year. That's 59 percent of the total of fines collected and a 3.5 percent increase from the year before. Parking ticket revenue has increased 10 percent since 2012. The city effort to boot vehicles with more than $350 in unpaid tickets has increased since it was first launched in 2012, bringing in $17 million, a 13 percent increase from the year before.
► $381 million from CUNY, a 5.5 percent increase from the $361 million collected the year before. Revenue collected from CUNY students has increased 22 percent since 2012, largely due to a 25 percent increase in community college tuition fees and a 2 percent jump in enrollment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants the city to pay a larger share of the costs to fund CUNY, an effort de Blasio has resisted, and proposed a $485 million cut in state funding. CUNY professors and staff have not had a raise in six years.
"Constantly raising tuition and fees is not the way to provide a stable funding base for CUNY," said Barbara Bowen, a CUNY English professor who is president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff.
Restaurants, retail stores and tobacco sellers actually saw their fines decreased. Restaurant fines for things such as letter grade violations dropped to $33 million in fiscal year 2015, down from $39 million the year before.
The decrease comes after a 2013 city agreement to reduce fines for minor violations and de Blasio's small business relief initiative in 2014.
Finan said the city is still ensuring that restaurants and other businesses are "up to code" but is issuing "curable violations" more frequently that allow owners to avoid fines for first infractions.
"Curable violations pose no immediate harm to consumers, which is why businesses can receive forgiveness for these first-time infractions," Finan said.