Mayor Bill de Blasio is continuing his fight for student safety after 140 speed cameras placed around city schools went dark last month.
In late July, the State legislature failed to pass legislation aimed at sustaining and expanding the school safety program, that has been known to keep drivers from speeding near city schools. The photo equipment has been used to ticket drivers going at least 10 mph above the speed limit during school hours.
On Tuesday, the Mayor announced the first status report since the major shutdown which included shutting down speed cameras in 120 school zones and the halting of summonses to speeding drivers. The city still has 20 mobile speed cameras in use that will remain operational until August 30th.
“In just over two weeks’ time since the cameras stopped issuing summonses, tens of thousands of drivers sped past schools. Even worse, because of State Senate inaction, these drivers will face absolutely no consequences for this lethal behavior. The State Senate must end their vacation early and act before the first day of school, which is just weeks away. Our children’s lives depend on it,” said the Mayor.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is still collecting speed data from deactivated cameras, 132,253 drivers have been observed through Friday, August 10th exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour during school hours.
The revelation has left many of Brooklyn lawmakers in shock as the school year is expected to kick off in less than a month on Sept 5.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams is hoping the Mayor’s announcement will aid in bringing state lawmakers back to Albany to pass emergency legislation on the speed cameras.
“I can only pray that this data sounds an ear-piercing alarm that the State Senate cannot ignore, bringing everyone back to Albany to reauthorize this critical program. If not, I fear the next announcement we make on this may be a fatal one. The presence of speed cameras is not a speed trap; their absence, however, is a death trap,” said Adams.
A bill, A7798C/S6046C, to continue the use of the cameras and also to expand their use to other schools passed the Assembly and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The measure has 35 co-sponsors in the Senate where only 32 votes are needed to pass any given bill. Nearly every Senator who represents New York City has supported the bill – however, it has not been brought up for a vote by the Senate leadership.
Assembly members Felix Ortiz (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) and Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach) echoed the sentiment, calling on their fellow colleagues to pass the necessary legislation to keep the cameras operational.
“The only thing blocking speed cameras and the safety of our school children is the New York State Senate. We can’t allow any child to be at risk from a speeding driver when all it takes is a Senate vote to turn the speed cameras back on. Let’s make the issue perfectly clear: cameras help save lives. We can’t play politics with safety,” said Ortiz.
“The speed camera law worked to save lives by penalizing drivers’ negative behavior and getting people into the habit of slowing down. Unfortunately, good habits die quickly, as the latest DOT statistics have demonstrated. With the new school year just weeks away, it is essential that the speed camera program is reactivated so that it can continue doing what it does so effectively – keeping kids and adults out of harm’s way,” Cymbrowitz, co-sponsor of the bill.
City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Kensington, Windsor Terrace) highlighted the immediate need for the cameras, citing the recent tragedy in his district involving the loss of two children’s lives due to a reckless driver earlier this year.
“In my district, we’ve lost five kids to reckless driving, including the heartrending killing of 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and 1-year-old Josh Lew this spring by a reckless driver who had 5 camera violations in the prior year alone. We’re outraged that the GOP-controlled New York State Senate cares so little about the lives of our kids,” said Lander.
In the wake of the Park Slope tragedy, Lander introduced The Reckless Driver Accountability Act. A measure which aims to crack down on reckless and dangerous drivers.
Under the act, car owners who receive four camera violations within a year would be sent a warning notice and offered the opportunity to enroll in a Driver Accountability Course. A car owner who racks up a fifth violation in a year would be required to enroll in the course within 10 days of receiving a notice from the city or have their car subject to being booted or impounded.
“The Reckless Driver Accountability Act will help us change driver behavior and get reckless drivers off the road,” added Lander.