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Politicians, advocates mount campaign for more speed cameras near schools

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New York City’s speed camera program — the one that has shown early results but has also enraged lead-footed drivers — is inadequate, according to advocates and elected officials.

With motor vehicles causing more “injury-related” deaths among New York City children than any other cause, advocates and sympathetic politicians will mount a campaign this week to convince Albany to substantially expand the city’s speed camera program.

“This is not about raising more revenue, though people always say that,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the West Side Democrat who is sponsoring the bill in her chamber.

On Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James will rally for the bill on the steps of City Hall with Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets.

“We should not have to fear for our childrens’ safety as they cross the street to school,” she said.

On Tuesday, advocates and children from a school in Brooklyn where several students have been struck and killed by cars will travel to Albany to make their case before legislators.

Among them will be Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ariel, was killed in 2013 when a speeding driver jumped the curb and struck her as she was walking to school.

The bill’s intention is to allow speed cameras near every New York City school, rather than just the 140 school zones where they are now authorized.

That would “not only reduce speeding but also change the culture when it comes to driving in New York City and pedestrian safety,” said Russo, a high school special education teacher.

Speed cameras have been proven to reduce crashes, but creating a robust speed camera program in New York City requires the support of Albany, which has historically been suspicious of the technology.

In 2013, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg managed to wrest authorization for speed cameras near 20 schools in New York City.

The cameras dole out $50 tickets to drivers who go more than 10 mph above the speed limit.

In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made speed cameras a centerpiece of his safe streets platform, secured Albany’s support for implementing them in another 120 school zones.

Glick’s bill would allow all of New York’s more than 2,600 schools to have the protection of a speed camera. It would also allow the cameras to operate all day, rather than just during school hours, and would make the program permanent.

Glick has the support of Public Advocate James, Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, several assemblymembers and five state senators, none of whom are members of the ruling Republican and Independent Democratic coalition.

It’s also supported by Uber, the United Federation of Teachers and dozens of school, youth, health and faith-based organizations.

De Blasio’s transportation department told POLITICO that it would, generally, support any effort to enhance the program’s effectiveness, though it declined to explicitly endorse the proposed legislation.

Jeff Klein, who leads the breakaway IDC, has sponsored speed camera legislation in the past, and advocates are hoping to enlist his support again.

“We’re beginning a conversation with him and hoping he’ll want to lead on this issue again,” said Caroline Samponaro, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.

In a statement, Klein spokeswoman Candice Giove was noncommittal.

“We’re reviewing the legislation and getting input from the city and the advocates,” she said.

 

Courtesy:   DANA RUBINSTEIN

 
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