Aug. 14, 2018 By Tara Law
Transportation advocates and State Senator Jose Peralta gathered once again on Monday to call for the State Senate to reconvene to pass a bill that would renew and expand the expired school zone speed camera program.
Proponents of the program gathered outside the Dominico-American Society of Queens yesterday to urge the Senate to renew the speed camera program, which expired on July 25, before the start of the school year.
Supporters of the bill have gathered several times over the last few months to urge Senate Republicans–who control that chamber– to call a special session and pass the bill. They argue that the program has made streets safer by encouraging cars to slow down in streets near schools.
The mayor’s office released statistics yesterday that said that there were more than 130,000 instances where drivers went more then 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in school zones between July 25 and Aug. 10. The Department of Transportation has continued to collect data from the deactivated cameras, but has not issued speeding violations.
Peralta’s bill, if implemented, would extend the camera program, increase the number of street cameras from 140 to 290, and expand the hours the cameras are operational. Peralta penned a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Aug. 9, urging him to convene a special session in order to pass the legislation.
The bill has already passed the State Assembly, and all 31 members of the senate Democratic Conference currently back the bill, as well as four Republican senators.
On Monday, Peralta criticized the Republican leadership for failing to reconvene the Senate and urged them to take responsibility for the city’s schoolchildren.
“We have three weeks until more than one million children return to school in New York City,” Peralta said. “Let’s return to Albany, right this wrong and ensure our kids are protected when they go back to school.”
Standing beside him were transit advocates such as Raul Ampuero, whose 9-year-old son, Giovanni, was killed by a driver on Northern Boulevard in April. Ampuero is now a member of the Jackson Heights-based advocacy group Families for Safe Streets, which is comprised of families who have lost loved ones killed in crashes.
Ampuero called the decision not to reconvene a legislative session “inexcusable.”
“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.”
Marco Conner, activist group Transportation Alternatives’ legislative and legal director, urged the Senate to pass the bill before children return to school.
“This June the State Senate left for vacation without doing its most simple job— protecting New Yorkers and NYC school children,” Conner said. “Much worse, they made our streets even more dangerous. 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.”
In a separate statement, city officials including Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, urged the Senate to pass the bill.
“In just over two weeks’ time since the cameras stopped issuing summonses, tens of thousands of drivers sped past schools,” de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”