By Mark Hallum
State elected officials are continuing to call on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) to bring legislation to the floor that would renew and expand a speed camera program aimed at protecting students around schools and residential neighborhoods.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) pushed for the measure alongside civic organizations and the Transportation Alternatives advocacy group asked for a special session to be called in Albany to vote on extending what started as a pilot program in 2013 and placed 140 cameras near schools along the most dangerous corridors and intersections in the city.
“Currently, we have 35 co-sponsors on this truly bipartisan bill. We have to stop playing politics with our children’s lives. Who are the grown-ups here? Sadly, the Republican leadership refuses to reconvene the Senate to reinstate and expand the life-saving school zone speed camera program,” Peralta said. “We have three weeks until more than one million children return to school in New York City. Let’s return to Albany, right this wrong and ensure our kids are protected when they go back to school.”
Raul Ampuero held back tears at a July 12 news conference as he recalled the day his 9-year-old son was killed in a hit-and-run on Northern Boulevard in Corona in April, and urged lawmakers again Monday to bring speed cameras back to city streets.
The School Speed Camera program has lowered speeding by 63 percent and reduced pedestrian injuries by 23 percent in places where it was implemented, according to the city Department of Transportation, but the program expired July 25.
“Speed cameras save lives. What more is necessary to know? A state Senate vote to save lives should be the most simple thing to do,” Ampuero said. “It is just one day of travel to Albany, one vote to cast and you will save lives and help prevent the terrible pain of losing a loved one, like I lost my son, Giovanni. This is about our children and our families – the most precious in our lives. Yet for some reason that is beyond comprehension. The Republican State Senate leaders have refused to even vote on this. This is inexcusable. They need to do their job and make sure they pass the speed camera bill before kids return to school in September.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has come out in favor of the renewal, with Northern Boulevard being a major target of the Vision Zero initiative and Transportation Alternatives has been active in the fight to have the safety measures restored.
“This June the state Senate left for vacation without doing its most simple job – protecting New Yorkers and New York City schoolchildren. Much worse, they made our streets even more dangerous,” Marco Conner, legislative and legal director of Transportation Alternatives said. “On Sept. 5, hundreds of thousands of kids will be without the life-saving protection of speed safety cameras they’ve had for four years. The state Assembly has done its job and passed the bill to renew and expand the cameras. Gov. Cuomo is ready to sign the bill. And 35 state senators, more than a majority, co-sponsored the Senate bill. The Republican state Senate majority must allow a vote on S.6046C and pass it before kids return to school.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer claimed that since the program’s launch in 2016, 2.5 million drivers have been issued tickets from the program with only about 82,000 repeat offenders — a sign it is working, according to Peralta.
In July, Peralta said Democrats have all supported the program in the state Senate, alongside three Republicans, but it still does not have enough votes to pass.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall