Queens lawmakers make one final push to save school-zone speed camera program before it expires (UPDATED)

Photo via twitter.com/NCSLorg

A school-zone speed camera program is set to expire this Wednesday, and Queens elected officials are calling on the Senate for its renewal.

On July 23, Councilman Francisco Moya and Assemblywoman Ari Espinal called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to hold a special session to renew and expand the speed camera program which places cameras near New York City schools. Without immediate action, the existing 140 school-zone cameras will go dark on July 25.

“Allowing the speed camera program to expire is indefensible and needlessly endangers the lives of innocent children,” Moya said in the letter to Flanagan. “If a child is injured because this program was allowed to expire on Wednesday, it will not be an ‘accident.’ It will be the direct result of a negligent and malfeasant Republican-controlled Senate.”

In the joint letter, Espinal highlighted that the other levels of government had done their job to advocate for the speed cameras, so now it’s the Senate’s turn to take action.

“Children’s lives are at stake,” Espinal said. “In the state Assembly, we did our job to protect New York’s kids. It’s time Senator John Flanagan stopped playing politics and called his colleagues back to extend and expand the speed camera program.”

Since its inception, the program has reduced speed violations in Queens’ school zones by 66 percent and more than 63 percent citywide, according to the Automated Speed Enforcement Program Report from 2014 to 2016. The report also said that fatal and severe collisions are down 21 percent in areas where fixed cameras are present, whereas 85 percent of deaths occur during times and at locations where there are no speed cameras present.

On July 13, state Senator Jose Peralta held a press conference in East Elmhurst to advocate for the renewal and expansion of the program. At the event, the senator said that “we cannot play politics with schoolchildren and New Yorker’s lives” by letting the program expire.

But state Senate Republicans have been reluctant to renew the program, instead proposing an “alternative” that would install more stop signs and stop lights near school zones.

In official statements from Senator Flanagan and Governor Andrew Cuomo, the officials pointed fingers at one another, saying that it was the other’s fault that the program would not be renewed.

Flanagan blamed the governor and the Assembly’s “unwillingness to engage senators with a larger vision for street safety to protect children.” He added that Cuomo had been “derelict in his responsibilities” and was not present in Albany until the last days of the session, only sending senators a speed camera extender after the Assembly left town and Senate adjourned.

“Senators came up with many ways to protect students from speeding cars, including installing red lights and stop signs at every school intersection to protect all students while also extending the current speed camera program,” said Flanagan. “Governor Cuomo, at the time, urged legislators to ‘do the stop signs, do the lights,’ until elevating his campaign became more important than safety. The Senate Republican Majority is committed to doing even more to ensure the safety and well-being of all of New York’s students.”

The governor said that the Republican Senate was letting politics get in the way of making the best decision, and called the decision to not hold a special session “a complete dereliction” of the duty to ensure public safety.

“This is not an ideological issue — Senator Golden and his conference are playing politics with the lives of children, and it’s transparent,” said the governor. “I have said for weeks, there is no need for me to call a special session as the Assembly has already passed the bill during session — all that is left is for the Senate Republicans to act.

“Here’s a tip for Senator Golden,” Cuomo continued. “Maybe he should hold a protest in front of Senator Flanagan’s office and demand he bring his own conference back to Albany to vote for speed cameras on the merits like they should have done in June. If it helps the Senator, I will repeat the call for the Senate Republicans to immediately return to Albany and pass the bill that sits on their desk — I will sign it the same day.”

Story updated on July 24 at 5:30 p.m. to reflect comments from Senator John Flanagan and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The comments came to QNS after the story went live. 

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