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City reactivates speed cameras in school zones

NY Teacher
Mayor de Blasio signs the speed camera bill as others applaud.
Miller Photography

UFT President Michael Mulgrew (far left), parents, elected officials, Chancellor Richard Carranza and street safety advocates clap as Mayor Bill de Blasio signs the bill to restore speed cameras near New York City schools.

Supporters of the bill, including parents who have lost children.
Miller Photography

Members of the group Families for Safe Streets applaud the bill's passage.

Speed cameras are coming back online to ward off dangerous drivers near New York City schools in time for the start of school.

Thanks to the cooperation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed UFT-backed legislation on Sept. 4 reactivating 140 cameras citywide and expanding the program to 150 more school zones this school year. The cameras shut off in July after Republicans in the state Senate refused to extend the state law authorizing the city-operated program.

“As a teacher from a school where a student was killed on his way home from school, I understand the devastation it brings to a school community,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “This program saves children’s lives.”

New York City’s speed camera program reduced speeding by 63 percent at camera locations and reduced fatalities by 55 percent, according to the street safety group Transportation Alternatives.

The new law also gives the city the ability to extend the cameras’ operation time beyond school hours. Drivers caught on camera going more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit will face $50 fines.

Legislation to restore and extend the speed camera program had passed in the state Assembly in the spring, but Senate Republicans refused to bring it to a vote, despite weeks of lobbying by public school educators, parents and street safety advocates. Once the cameras went dark, local officials looked for a new solution.

“I’m as jaded as the next New Yorker but I thought we could make this happen,” said Council Speaker Johnson. “They didn’t listen, so we had to get creative.”

To bypass the legislative roadblock, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order providing the city access to state Department of Motor Vehicles records so the city can compare speed-camera snapshots of speeding drivers to the state’s records and identify lawbreakers. Then, the Council passed a bill authorizing the reactivation and growth of the speed-camera program.

“Senate Republicans made a calculation in Albany that, facts be damned, it would serve them politically to say ‘no’ to the parents of New York City children,” said Mulgrew. “Well, we did it anyway.’”

Before de Blasio signed the Council’s bill, officials heard testimony from the public, including from Amy Cohen, whose son Sam was struck and killed by a speeding driver while walking home from school.

“It’s been 1,792 days since I kissed my 12-year-old son goodbye,” said Cohen. “Sammy could’ve taught us a lot, but sadly we must only learn from his legacy.”

NY Teacher