TODAY'S PAPER

NYC’s speed cameras back on and expanded in time for start of school year

Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, shakes hands with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson as family members and friends who lost loved ones to motorists cheer after the mayor signed a bill in Manhattan Tuesday that preserves and expands the use of speed cameras near schools. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City has its speed cameras back.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday signed a bill into law to renew and expand the city’s use of speed cameras in school zones.

After the Republican-led state Senate failed this summer to extend what was a city-operated, but state-authorized program, the City Council, de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administrations worked together to hastily develop a legal end-around state lawmakers’ lack of support.

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“I cannot understand any political calculation that somehow puts partisan interests ahead of the needs of kids,” de Blasio said of Albany’s inaction. “But we know we here in New York City are not going to let that stop us. We’re going to take action here today.”

Working under an executive order from the governor that allows the city to access Department of Motor Vehicle records, the City Council, led by Speaker Corey Johnson and Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, worked to craft legislation that not only extends the city’s camera program but also allows the city to operate more speed cameras at more schools for longer hours.

Families for Safe Streets founder Amy Cohen, right, whose son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was struck and killed by a motorist in Brooklyn in 2013, speaks before Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that preserves and expands the use of speed cameras near schools.

The law will be in effect until the state passes a similar law, though Cuomo will have to renew the related executive order every 30 days.

“With the school year upon us, I took emergency measures to reinstate the speed camera program, and I thank Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson for working together with the state to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is an extraordinary action for an extraordinary situation, and it is not a substitute for the state Senate acting responsibly and passing the life-saving speed camera legislation.”

Before this summer, the city could only operate speed cameras during school hours at 140 locations. The new law lifts the hours and location restrictions. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said last week that the city plans to bring cameras to 290 schools within the coming months.

The cameras at the 140 locations will begin ticketing operations immediately, with school set to start Wednesday.

“We really did get creative,” said Johnson on the bill drafting process. “The staff at the City Council worked literally around the clock searching for solutions for the impending crisis: 1.1 million children starting classes with no speed cameras outside of schools.”

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The mayor passed out pens used to sign the bill to advocates from Families for Safe Streets, a group of street safety advocates who have lost family members or loved ones to traffic deaths, who lead the push to reinstate the cameras.

Zane Walker, 14, a Families for Safe Streets advocate whose friend Lucian Merryweather was killed by a speeding driver in 2013, cited city data in trumpeting the program. The cameras reduced speeding by 63 percent on average and led to a drop in traffic injuries by 17 percent, according to de Blasio. Eighty-one percent of drivers who received one ticket didn’t receive another, the city has said.

“Tomorrow I’ll be starting my school. Lucian should have been starting this next chapter too, but of course he won’t be because drivers value their time over children’s lives,” Walker said. “This is why we had, and soon will have again, these speed safety cameras. They save children’s lives.”