In Astoria, mayor urges state to allow more speed cameras near schools to deter crashes

Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria last Friday to push for the addition of more speed cameras around city schools to keep students and pedestrians safe.

The visit was coordinated as part of “City Hall in Your Borough” where the mayor and his staff worked from Queens for a week. On July 21, he visited the school to tout the benefits of the Automated Speed Enforcement Program, which allowed the city to install 140 speed cameras around schools in June 2014.

The addition of these cameras has resulted in a 66 percent decrease in speeding violations in Queens school zones . Citywide, pedestrian, motorist and cyclist injury crashes have declined by an average of 15 percent at locations with a camera and 81 percent of vehicle owners who receive a violation for speeding within school zones have not received an additional violation, a study found.

Senator Jose Peralta, who attended the press conference and sponsored legislation to increase the number of speed cameras around schools, argued that the state legislature should bring the law to the floor after failing to do so last session.

“There is no question that speed cameras save lives, and unfortunately, we have a speeding problem in the city,” Peralta said. “The school speed camera program has been a success, and we need to ensure that we extend it, and expand it. There’s a dramatic decline in speeding in areas where these cameras guard our children. I will continue to champion this life-saving initiative to ensure it not only doesn’t expire, but that we expand and strengthen it.”

There have been 201 injuries, 13 of them severe, within 1/4 of a mile at William Cullen Bryant High School at 48-10 31st Ave. over the past five years. A mobile speed camera will be active at Newtown Road near the school but not along Northern Boulevard. The busy corrider is considered the birthplace of Vision Zero after 8-year old Noshat Nahian was walking to P.S. 152 in Woodside with his sister.

Though students have to cross the boulevard to get to school, under current law they cannot be placed there because the thoroughfare is not 440 yards away from a school. Peralta’s legislation would allow speed cameras within 1/4 miles of a school.

“Sadly, under current law, even though Noshat had to cross Northern Boulevard every day to get to school, his was among many schools that are not fully protected by speed cameras,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “To fix that, we need Albany to focus in the year ahead on both renewing and strengthening the speedcamera law.”

Speed cameras were installed elsewhere along Northern Boulevard and have led to a 50 percent decline in crashes and 60 percent reduction in speeding violations. The cameras have been installed in more than 100 Queens schools and busy thoroughfares such as Queens Boulevard, Hillside Avenue, Union Turnpike and Atlantic Avenue.

“We know that speed cameras save lives, and we have the hard evidence to prove it,” de Blasio said. “We were disappointed that the bill sponsored by Senator Peralta and Assembly Member Glick to expand their use didn’t pass last session. In the year ahead, we and the families who so strongly support life-saving cameras face the challenge of both renewing and expanding this life-saving program, and we are redoubling our efforts to get this done.”

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