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School zone speed cameras could expand under City Council bill

The program would expand from 140 locations to 290 under a new City Council bill.

The City Council is set to vote Wednesday

The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on the bill to revive and broaden the city's school zone speed camera program. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The City Council is muscling through an expansion of the city’s school zone speed camera program, in addition to restarting it next week.

After the Republican-led state Senate let the city’s camera program expire this July, city lawmakers have assembled a last-minute bill to help revive and broaden the safety initiative in time for the school year’s start on Sept. 5.

“[The bill] will save lives and is the least that we can do for the children of New York City and for their parents,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Tuesday during a special, emergency hearing on the legislation. “This is not a temporary fix. It will replace the state speed camera law, which we all know recently expired due to cynical political maneuvering by the Republican-led state Senate.”

The camera program is typically authorized by state lawmakers, but in a patchwork approach, the city and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are collaborating to turn the cameras back on and once again issue $50 summonses to drivers caught going more than 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

Working under an executive order Cuomo signed Monday to allow for the city to access Department of Motor Vehicle records, the bill will expand the city’s authority. It will allow the operation of the cameras near schools during school hours and “any other time as determined by the department of transportation, based on an analysis of speeding or crash data,” according to the bill.

The legislation will also allow the city to increase the number of schools where it can place the cameras. The city would expand from 140 locations to 290 should the bill pass, according to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. That expansion would take months, she added.

Dating back to before the camera program’s launch in 2014, the city has said it needed the state to authorize traffic enforcement cameras in the five boroughs.

But the current strategy, crafted between the de Blasio administration, the governor’s office and the City Council, has “people [feeling] we’re on pretty solid legal ground,” Trottenberg told reporters after the hearing.

“We’ve had some of the finest legal experts in the city working pretty closely and pretty feverishly to design legislation that they thought could withstand legal challenge,” Trottenberg continued.

The Council’s Transportation Committee will meet Wednesday to vote on the bill, which if passed will then head to a full Council vote later in the day. The Council’s bill would only expire if state lawmakers pass a similar version, though the governor’s executive order must be renewed every 30 days.

De Blasio is issuing a “message of necessity” that allows the Council to fast-track the legislation.

“We’ll get the cameras up and running quickly,” de Blasio said Monday night during his regular appearance on NY1. “We then will look to expand to other schools that really need the safety that a speed camera provides.”

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