State pols mull plan to add 750 speed cameras near NYC schools

ALBANY — Mayor de Blasio has found support within the state Legislature for his push for more speed cameras around city schools, the Daily News has learned.

A bill introduced this week by breakaway Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens would add 750 speed cameras in school zones. There are currently 140 authorized under law.

The bill, which is expected to add Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeffrey Klein as a co-sponsor, is also set to be introduced in the Assembly by Manhattan Democrat Deborah Glick.

It would allow the cameras to be installed up to a half-mile away from school entrances. The current limit is a quarter-mile.

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Under the bill, which the sponsors said they developed with City Hall, the cameras would be operational seven days a week from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

City Hall would be required to install signs within 300 feet of a camera alerting drivers that the devices are in use.

“The presence of speed cameras reduces the number of speeders and in turn, the number of people killed,” de Blasio said in a statement to The News. “Expanding the program, a proven way to save lives, is a no brainer. We don’t have a second to waste.”

The state in 2013 approved a pilot program that allowed the city to set up speed cameras in 20 school zones. The program, which is due to expire in 2018, was expanded a year later to 140 zones.

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Peralta said “it looks very promising” that his bill to expand and extend the program for another five years will make it to the floor for a vote before the legislative session ends in June.

But Senate Republicans who control the chamber say the bill’s fate is anything but a slam dunk.

Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) called the push for 750 new cameras, the expansion of the zone to half a mile from a school, and the proposed five-year length of the program “non-starters.”

“It’s laudable they want to slow traffic down,” Golden said. “We’ll look at the bill, but some of the proposals, my conference would never buy into it.”

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The mayor

The mayor’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to improve traffic safety, includes adding more speed cameras.

(Gerber, Peter/New York Daily News)

Before even considering new speed cameras, Golden said his conference would first want to see data on where the accidents in the city occur and how many are near schools.

A de Blasio spokeswoman said that between 2010 and 2014, 17,009 people were killed or severely injured in crashes in New York City. Fifteen percent of those people, 2,566, were struck during school hours within school zones, she said.

The bill is also facing a challenge in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where some members don’t like the idea of the cameras on principle. Others view it as nothing more than a cash grab by the city in hopes of generating more fine revenue.

But Glick said “I think we have a solid pitch to make. I think it’s important. The first step is getting it out of (the Transportation) committee.”

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Camera bills have been particularly difficult to get through the Assembly Transportation Committee over the years because of objections to them by the panel’s chairman, Assemblyman David Gantt (D-Rochester).

Gantt, however, has missed much of the legislative session due to health issues.

Assemblyman Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), who has been running the committee in Gantt’s absence, supports more speed cameras.

Perry said that while “750 looks like a big number,” he argued “it can be useful to make streets safer, which ultimately is what we want to have.”

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The speed cameras are part of de Blasio’s Vision Zero street safety campaign designed to cut down on pedestrian deaths.

The mayor earlier this month said 46 people, including 30 pedestrians, died in traffic accidents this year through March 31. A number of advocates came out in favor of the new bill to expand and extend the speed camera program in school zones.

“It’s a simple, cost-effective, fair way to tackle a problem that is killing New Yorkers,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White.

Tags:
daily news exclusives
bill de blasio
new york state legislature
new york public schools
new york charter schools
vision zero

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