BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
After a month-long fight by the city’s elected officials and transportation safety advocates following the expiration of the School Speed Camera program on July 26, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday declaring a “state of emergency” in New York City and reinstating the program.
The program, which launched in 2013, provided 140 city schools with speed cameras.
Since its inception, the speed camera program has led to a 17-percent drop in injuries and 60-percent decrease in speeding violations in proximity of the cameras, according to a study released by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) weeks before the program expired in July.
Cuomo had said numerous times that he would sign a speed camera bill as soon as state Senate Republicans passed it. However, with the start of the school year just one week away, Cuomo said that he refused to “sit idly by as Republican state senators put politics over the lives of our children and jeopardize public safety.”
“In the face of the Senate Republicans’ shameful inaction and with the school year set to begin, we are taking emergency action to reinstate the speed cameras program and protect our children,” said Cuomo. “This is extraordinary action for an extraordinary situation—but I continue to call on the Senate Republicans to do their job and pass lifesaving speed camera legislation once and for all.”
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) said that the speed cameras are especially important for senior citizens, as they are at higher risk of getting hit by a speeding driver.
“New York City’s school zone speed cameras are a proven deterrent, reducing speeding by 60 percent outside schools where they have been deployed,” said AARP New York advocacy director David McNally. “They not only keep our students safer, but prevent accidents for New Yorkers of all ages. New Yorkers 65 and over are most at risk of being killed in pedestrian accidents, accounting for half of all pedestrian fatalities even though they make up just 14 percent of New York City’s population.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst), who had held several press conferences calling on the state Senate and governor to pass a bill to keep the speed cameras and extend the program to reach approximately 260 schools, said he is pleased that the executive order was signed in time to get the cameras back on the streets. But he added that the Senate still needs to pass the legislation.
“It’s been proven over and over again that speed cameras are one of the most important and effective tools we have available to slow down drivers and keep our kids safe on our streets,” said Peralta. “That’s why I continue to call on the Senate to return to Albany, so that we can pass legislation that I’ve introduced to expand the speed camera program and once again codify their use.”
Cuomo’s executive order overrides a sunset clause in the speed camera legislation. The Queens Tribune reached out to the Queens GOP, which said that although the party typically frowns upon executive orders, legal action would not be taken since this program deals with the safety of children.
“We have said all along that our majority supports extending this program to keep speed cameras on,” said Candice Giove, a GOP spokeswoman. “In fact, we’d even consider codifying the governor’s executive order into law. The real question is will the Assembly join us?”
Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) said that the legislative body voted to continue the speed camera program, but the GOP did not follow suit.
“Instead, the GOP majority put politics first and jeopardized the livelihood of New York City students,” said Miller. “I hope, moving forward, the Senate will do better and work with the Assembly to pass legislation that will ensure the commute for all students to be a safe one.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign a piece of legislation that would further explore how the city plans to ticket speeders as well as give the city the flexibility to expand the program. The bill is expected to be signed as early as Sept. 5, the first day of school.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400, ext. 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.