Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order on Monday to help reinstate the city’s school zone speed camera program within weeks.
After the Republican-led State Senate failed to vote on legislation to renew and expand the camera program this summer, Cuomo said the city and state are jointly taking an “aggressive legal strategy” to make sure the cameras can issue tickets to speeders by the start of the school year on Sept. 5.
“Speed cameras save lives. It is unequivocal,” said Cuomo, seated in his Manhattan office alongside City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Families for Safe Streets, an advocacy group that has pushed for the measure.
The governor’s action will be packaged with new city legislation to be pushed through the City Council and voted on this Wednesday in order to get the cameras back online in time. The executive order will reinstate the old law with the same fines and provisions and authorizes the city to access Department of Motor Vehicles records to identify who owns the cars caught by the speed cameras so the drivers can be sent summonses.
The expired law allowed the city to operate cameras within 140 school zones during school hours, issuing $50 summonses to vehicles of drivers caught speeding at least 11 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.
Where the cameras were in operation, speeding was reduced by more than 60 percent, crashes involving pedestrians were down 17 percent and fatal crashes were down 55 percent, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.
De Blasio is also involved. In order to move the city legislation through this week, the mayor has agreed to issue a “message of necessity” to more quickly send the council bill to the floor for a vote, according to Cuomo and Johnson.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.
“I will be signing a city law to take back control of our speed cameras and protect 1.1 million kids on the first day of school,” de Blasio tweeted Monday morning.
Johnson has stated that he’d prefer to have speed cameras at every city school and stressed that the State Senate must act to extend and expand the current program at least beyond the current 140 locations.
In the meantime, “we’re being creative and thoughtful ... on figuring out a legal strategy on how we could move this forward in a responsible manner,” he said.
The current measures are temporary, Cuomo said, and not a substitute for a state law; the executive order must be extended every 30 days. While the governor accused the State Senate of playing politics with children’s lives, it’s not clear if the Senate has any will to vote on the eyed legislation.
Families for Safe Streets member Amy Cohen, who lost her 12-year-old son Sammy in 2013 after being struck by a van in Brooklyn, said that Monday brought “a little light” to the group’s advocacy around tragedy.
“It is great that some aspects of our government can rise above petty politics, but we sadly have more to do. This is just a temporary solution,” Cohen said. “We know all too well the price that is at stake by not acting. It’s a lifesaving measure that will make it safer for children to get to and from school — what more should we be asking of our elected officials?”