Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
This image was captured at a March rally on the steps of City Hall in which victims and advocates demanded that State lawmakers expand NYC’s school zone speed enforcement camera program.
By Michael V. Cusenza
New York lawmakers and advocates this week renewed their call to the State Senate to pass a bill that would expand and extend the city school zone speed camera program.
Sponsored by Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), the measure would add 150 monitoring devices to the current 140 speed safety cameras operating under a pilot program approved in 2013. The program is set to expire next month unless the Legislature acts by June 20, Peralta noted. According to Senate records, the proposal is still under consideration in the Senate Committee on Cities.
“This is about protecting children. Who does not want to protect children? Who does not want to save lives? We need to ensure streets are safe when New York City schoolchildren travel to and from school every day. My bill will make city streets safer for kids,” the senator added. “If we do not act, the cameras will go away in July and our kids will return to unsafe streets when they go back to school in September.”
According to Peralta, the bill would allow 290 speed cameras to operate within a quarter-mile of a designated school, beginning one hour prior and running until one hour after a school day. Devices would also be operational during student activities, including up to 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the activities. Additionally, the proposal calls for the installation of warning signs within 300 feet of a monitoring device, and prohibits the installation of a camera within 300 feet of a highway exit ramp.
Peralta noted that on Thursday the City Council approved the home rule request required for the Legislature to pass the bill. The measure is supported by all 31 members of the Senate Democratic Conference and two Republican senators.
“The school year is about to end, but that’s no excuse for reckless driving that could end lives,” said Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-South Ozone Park). “An expansion of the school zone speed camera program will help cut down speeding, and save lives on city streets. Drivers will think twice about speeding and disobeying traffic laws by schools when they spot cameras and their warning signs. Those that don’t—their vehicles—will have cameras snap their picture and be penalized with a fine.”
Elected officials on all levels have been calling for more speed cameras for months. In May, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Albany to act and reauthorize and expand the program.
“We need school zone speed camera legislation extended and expanded immediately to prevent future tragedies on our streets. Speed cameras save lives,” Hizzoner said.
The City has also proposed reforms to the program, including: revising the definition of a school zone to allow the Department of Transportation to address speeding on streets that are near a school, as opposed to only the street or streets on which a school is located; and extending the program through 2022.
This week, Peralta said he hopes his legislation is debated and voted on before the current session ends on Wednesday.
“The time for excuses is over,” he declared.