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Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Local students hold signage at the June 11 rally in Bayside.

Northeast Queens residents convened in Bayside on Monday afternoon to call for a change to the city’s school safety procedures.

Councilman Paul Vallone was joined by local parents and students in front of his office at 42nd Avenue and Bell Boulevard on June 11 to call for improved school safety efforts throughout the city. The rally comes in the wake of a series of high-profile gun violence incidents at schools in Santa Fe, TX, and Parkland, FL.

“The complete failure on the federal level to do anything, along with the tragic events that have unfolded in our country, bring us together today,” Vallone said.

The group, who were joined by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, called for the passage of an eleven-bill package of legislation presented in City Council in May. Vallone introduced a bill that would establish a “School Security Task Force,” which would be chaired by the NYPD commissioner and meet quarterly to assess school safety throughout the city and make recommendations for improvement.

Vallone also introduced three additional bills which would require the task force to review emergency communication technologies at public schools, emergency preparedness at nonpublic schools and existing security presence. Each bill has been referred to the Council’s Committee on Public Safety.

The northeast Queens representative also renewed his call for the city to commit to doubling funding for updated school surveillance systems. Approximately one-third of the city’s schools are without Internet Protocol Digital Video Surveillance (IPDVS) systems, according to the lawmaker.

The push was influenced in part by a recent incident at P.S. 184 in Whitestone, where a suspicious man reportedly entered the school during school hours. On May 16, Vallone announced a $425,000 funding commitment for the fiscal year 2019 budget to install a surveillance system at the building.

DiNapoli backed the package of bills being proposed. He also said he and his office will pursue a series of audits on the state and city education departments’ school safety procedures.

“We’ve all been heartbroken by the tragedies we’ve seen across this great country and it calls out for a response,” he said. “I’ve said on other occasions that if we’re going to get any real traction on the issue of dealing with school safety and gun violence — the impact its having in our school settings — it’s going to be because of what the young people are calling for. And I’m really heartened that we have high school students and soon-to-be high school students here as well, because this is what it’s all about.”

At their monthly meeting on May 14, Community Board 7 voted in favor of sending a “School Safety Resolution” to the area’s city, state and federal elected officials. Charles Apelian, vice chair of the board, commended the lawmaker’s efforts at this week’s rally.

“We have one prime role as adults, and that’s to protect our children,” he said. “We stand 1,000 percent behind the efforts that’s been taken through this legislation.”

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