NYC children ‘in danger’ if school-zone speed cameras go dark, mayor says

A school-zone speed camera is shown near Francis Lewis High School in Queens.
A school-zone speed camera is shown near Francis Lewis High School in Queens. Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Nine demonstrators were arrested outside of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office Thursday evening, where safe street advocates gathered to criticize Cuomo for failing to extend and expand the city’s school zone speed camera program before the legislative session ended much earlier in the day.

With mock, black tire marks painted on their faces and arms, advocates from Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives blocked most of Third Avenue near 40th Street for more than a half hour before police began making arrests.

Families for Safe Streets, a group of advocates who have had relatives killed in car crashes, brought signs that read, “Children are going to die,” and chanted, “Shame Gov. Cuomo.”

“Last night the leader of our state, Governor Cuomo, failed us. He decided to play games and let children die,” said Amy Cohen, of Families for Safe Streets. “He got a bridge named after his father; he got a train; but he failed to pass a bill to expand the program.”

The city will need to turn off 140 speed cameras stationed near schools next month, unless the state Senate reconvenes for a special legislative session and approves a measure extending the program. The cameras have been a central part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians.

Earlier on Thursday, Cuomo said he supported the speed cameras. He blamed state Senate Republicans for blocking legislation that would increase the number of schools with cameras from 140 to 290, and extend the program until 2022. Much of the anger has also focused on Brooklyn state Sen. Simcha Felder, who used the program’s expiration as leverage to try and negotiate for more police officers in schools, among other items.

Cuomo pledged to push for a special session before the next school year.

“I think it would be an atrocity and literally a public safety hazard if the Senate doesn’t renew the cameras and the children start school in September,” Cuomo said. “I’ll bring them back; I’ll continue to lobby. But . . . their position is against it, they want stop signs and red lights, which they believe are more effective.”

Both de Blasio and advocates have championed the cameras as a lifesaving measure. Incidents of speeding have decreased by an average of 63 percent at locations where the cameras are in use, while pedestrian injuries have dropped by 23 percent, according to the mayor.

“The failure to preserve and expand life-saving speed cameras near New York City schools represents a massive failure of leadership. Kids will be in danger. Kids will lose their lives,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed by a driver on the Upper West Side, was one of the members of Families for Safe Streets who was arrested.

“A reckless driver hit him and he died three days after from his injuries. These are losses to our entire community — to our families and this entire city,” said Kelly.

Felder’s office and the office of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.