On the eve of the first day of school, Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives gathered with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and city and state elected officials in City Hall Park to hail the bold actions of Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council which resulted in the reactivation of the New York City's school zone speed safety camera program just in time for the beginning of the school year, which begins on Wednesday.
Last week, Governor Cuomo signed a 30-day emergency executive order which provides the City access to state DMV records, so that when a speed camera takes a photo of a speeding vehicle, the City can match license plates to the state’s records and identify the vehicle owner. Later that week, the City Council held a hearing, and then voted to pass a bill which codified a new legal pathway to extending, and potentially expanding, the speed camera program. Mayor de Blasio signed the bill earlier today.
“Up until last week, we were afraid our kids would be heading back to school this week without the speed cameras that have dramatically reduced the prevalence of speeding near their schools. But thanks to the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and Council Speaker Johnson, 1.1 million schoolchildren will have a safer walk to school tomorrow,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “The Senate’s Republican leaders had every opportunity to renew and expand this life-saving program and put the safety of New York City children ahead of politics. They missed their chance.”
“While the Republicans who control the Senate worked to shut down the speed safety camera program and embolden deadly drivers, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and Council Speaker Johnson made it their business to ensure our children would be just as safe this week as they were when they left school in June,” said Amy Cohen, founding member of Families for Safe Streets. “They recognize that speed safety cameras work, and they recognize that preventing drivers from endangering our kids is what they were elected to do."
New York City's speed safety camera program has been wildly successful. During the first four years cameras were in operation, speeding near schools fell by 63 percent, and fatalities near schools fell by 55 percent. During the 2018 state legislative session, the Assembly passed a bill which would have extended the program by another four years and also would have given the City of New York permission to expand the number of cameras, which had been limited to 140, by 150 cameras for a total of 290.
But the bill, S6046-C, never received a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, even though it had 35 co-sponsors -- more than enough support to pass -- including five Republicans. Without a vote, the speed safety camera program expired in July, while more than 160,000 students were attending summer programs, and the City’s ability to issue summonses to speeding drivers was suspended.
The failure of Senate Leader John Flanagan and Senator Marty Golden, the senior Republican senator from New York City, to bring the bill to a vote was not just reckless -- the cameras have proven to save children’s lives -- but also tone-deaf, as the speed camera program had the support of 88 percent of New York City voters and a broad coalition of schools, religious institutions, hospitals and community organizations from across the five boroughs.
“School starts this week. The time for playing politics is well past over. I promised that we would do everything in our power to make sure kids were safe on the first day of school, and I am proud that we were able to bring back speed cameras today. I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo for working with us on this life-saving legislation, as well as the Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez for his tireless commitment. And I remain ever grateful to advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets who have shown us the definition of determination and strength time and time again this summer. Together we have made our streets safer in the name of 1.1 million school children,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
"New Yorkers, from parents and teachers to elected officials and activists, came together on behalf of our children and got the speed cameras turned back on. Special thanks goes to Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson for finding a way to solve this problem," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
“The Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC), which represents all the Parent Associations and Parent-Teacher Associations in NYC, wishes to express our deepest thanks to our Governor, Mayor, and members of the City Council for their creative solution to getting speed cameras up and running again around many of our schools ahead of the start of the new school year. Their work-around will save lives! We have long supported the tireless efforts of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to expand the speed camera program around schools in New York City. We also remain keenly aware that we need a permanent solution – we need members of our State Senate to approve the reauthorization and expansion of speed cameras around our schools. Our children need them to take action immediately,” said Nancy Northrop, 1st Chair, CPAC.
“I applaud the Governor, Mayor and Council Speaker for finding a way to reinstate the life-saving school speed cameras program. These cameras help reduce speeding in school zones, making them a vital enforcement tool, so I’m grateful they are back and running as over one million students return to class this week. I also call on the State Senate to make this program permanent,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
“I am so happy to stand here with Council Speaker Johnson, Controller Stringer and safe street advocates to celebrate the start of a safer school year. We have all spoken in support of speed cameras and urged their renewed use near schools, and thankfully our voices have been heard. There is plenty of evidence that speed cameras deter reckless drivers and boost protection of our children. Here’s to a safe and productive school year,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark.
“The start of the school year should be an exciting time for families, not riddled with safety concerns and I am thrilled that the school zone speed cameras will be operational tomorrow. I appreciate that the Mayor, City Council and Governor devised a temporary authorization to operate speed cameras in school zones. I applaud the tireless advocacy of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, who refused to accept the State Senate’s inaction as a reason to give up. The lives of children are not political chips, and we need a permanent solution. My bill to restore and modestly expand this vital program has passed the State Assembly. The State Senate must return to Albany to pass this essential legislation,” said Assembly Member Deborah Glick.
"Speed cameras are an incredibly important tool for keeping our children safe around schools. I have unfortunately seen firsthand the tragic aftermath of a driver hitting a child near a school in my district. That's why this issue is so important to me and why I am proud to carry this legislation in the State Senate. Today is a victory for our children, but it's time to go back to Albany and make sure we expand speed cameras and codify their use. I thank Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets and the many advocates for never backing down on this issue and for fighting to get this done," said State Senator Jose Peralta.
“Parents today can take a sigh of relief. Despite the New York State Senate's shameful inaction, speed cameras are up and running in New York City thanks to the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, the Governor, and the City Council. It's encouraging to see that the will of the people has prevailed over the partisan rancor and infighting that's all too common in Albany,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“The City Council’s Speed Camera law is a significant progress in the step towards eliminating traffic fatalities and keeping our students safe while traveling to and from school. Thank you to the leadership of Speaker Johnson, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for supporting and propelling this initiative forward. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I will continue to work to make New York City more accessible by public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle routes, and less reliant on automobiles. Making the city and streets safer is one of my top priorities as Chair, and I will continue to partner with the Mayor, the Speaker, my colleagues, Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, and other advocates to see that we have a permanent solution from the State. The safety and wellbeing of our students goes beyond Party lines. This is about the responsibility of all leaders in the City and the state of New York to protect and represent all residents: regardless of their Council district, their political affiliation, or any other demographic data,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
“After a stunning abdication of leadership from the New York State Senate that failed to reauthorize the life-saving cameras before they expired on July 25, I’m thrilled that the City was able to turn the cameras back on in time for the first day of school,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “This was because of the nothing less than heroic efforts of Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, and partners who never let up in ringing the alarm bell, who organized a marathon walk around Marty Golden’s office and civil disobedience actions to bring attention to the dire need for speed cameras. You have all of our immense gratitude. Speed cameras save lives – it’s as simple as that. I’ll continue my efforts to help end reckless driving in New York City through the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, which targets the 1% of drivers who get ticket after ticket, are using their cars as weapons against their neighbors, and for whom turning on the speed cameras simply won’t be enough. By confronting reckless driving to prevent future deaths, we will do all that we possibly can to make the memories of those lost to traffic violence into a blessing.”
“Speed cameras reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries for pedestrians, motorists, and passengers alike, and I’m grateful that Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and City Council Speaker Johnson have acted to protect public safety,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan. “The State Senate’s failure to act on school-zone speed cameras is callous and disgraceful. In addition, Albany should let New York City decide for itself how many speed and red light cameras we should have and where they should go.”
"Speed cameras save lives. Safety can never take a back seat when children's lives are at stake. Our state senate refused to step up and take responsibility to extend the state law. The agreement reached last week to reactivate the cameras is welcome news,” said Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.
“There are two kinds of legislative bodies: one that sees a problem and finds a way to solve it – the other is the Republican-controlled New York State Senate. The school-based speed safety camera program saves lives and fortunately we have leaders like Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo working to find ways to get them turned back on before the school year starts,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “I hope the State Senate is learning that there are better ways to operate than playing politics and holding New York City school kids hostage.”
State Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Speed cameras save lives. That should be the top priority of every elected official. I am grateful for the City Council's important achievement in keeping the speed cameras operational, and their efforts only redouble my commitment to making them permanent through legislation in Albany. We can no longer accept any excuses, since any delay puts the lives of the most vulnerable at risk.”
“The safety of our children and our community must be our highest priority, and I commend Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the City Council for turning the speed safety cameras near schools back on before the start of the school year. However, we must do more to ensure that kids are safe on city streets and throughout the state. I am proud of the work the Assembly has done to expand speed safety cameras, but it is time for the State Senate to return to Albany to pass commonsense legislation to keep our children safe. Thanks to TransAlt and Families for Safe Streets for fighting for commonsense street safety measures in the face of grief,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.
“The legislation Mayor Bill de Blasio signed today extending speed cameras in school zones will protect our children just as millions of them begin the new school year,” said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte. “Organizations like Transportation Alternatives, Familes for Safe Streets, AARP NY, the YMCA, NYU Langone, the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State Nurses Association, and many others made this possible through their strong activism and commitment to the safety of our children. These groups took tremendous pains to bring this issue to the attention of elected officials and New Yorkers. The results of their labor were witnessed today with the passage of the Mayor’s bill. At the age of ten, I was struck by a speeding car and nearly lost my life. Therefore, I know the brutal cost these incidents can inflict.“
"Shame on Senate Republicans, who have made it crystal clear that they have no interest in protecting our children from physical harm: they have repeatedly failed to pass the Child Victims Act and opted to go on vacation instead of renewing a speed camera program that saves children’s lives. Parents of schoolchildren across New York City can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that the Mayor and City Council, in cooperation with the Governor, have taken action to protect 1 million kids on their first day of school with this vital stopgap. State Senators still have an opportunity to reconvene and get state legislation passed — they should take it,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.
”I commend City Council, Mayor de Blasio & Governor Cuomo for fulfilling this obligation to the children of our city. By going forward and passing the speed camera bill, parents can breathe easier knowing that the safety of our smallest New Yorkers is always a top priority,” said Assembly Member Latrice Monique Walker.
“I am proud to join teachers, parents, students, Community Education Council representatives, and school crossing guards, as well as Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and my colleagues in government, in celebrating the implementation of local school-based safety cameras,” said Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Albany to ensure that safety precautions such as these are granted to every child throughout New York State so our students can direct their focus on their education.”
Council Member Peter Koo stated, “It is essential that we keep the streets surrounding our local schools safe from speeding cars. Our children deserve the highest level of investment from government, and keeping our speed cameras up and activated is the least we can do. Thank you to all the advocates who refused to back down on this important life-saving issue.”
“Restoring speed cameras is a victory for our City. When the State was inactive on legislation that saves the lives of young New Yorkers, the City thought outside the box and got this done," said Council Member Keith Powers. "I thank Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio, and Governor Cuomo for making this happen, as well as several of my colleagues in State government.”
“The lives of our children should never be put in jeopardy, especially because of politics. I commend Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo for stepping up and taking expedient measures to reinstate speed cameras in school zones before the start of the school year. I’m proud of the work we did together- the Council, Mayor and Governor-to keep our children safe,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
“Speed safety cameras save children’s lives -- period. We are thankful that the State and City were able to devise a needed emergency solution to protect children. On behalf of Citizens’ Committee for Children, we thank Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson, and the entire City Council for their incredible effort. We extend heartfelt thanks to all the families who have fought so hard, despite the profound tragedies they have endured, to ensure that speed safety cameras would be back on before school starts. We look forward to working together to achieve a permanent solution for the speed safety cameras,” said Jennifer March, executive director of Citizens’ Committee for Children.
“UJA-Federation of New York thanks Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Corey Johnson and members of the City Council for their commitment to the safety of New York City’s children. The governor’s executive order and the City’s complementary legislation take decisive action and recognize the life-saving protection and importance of New York City’s school zone speed camera program. UJA-Federation appreciates the extension of this program and looks forward to working with our partners in both the state and city, to expand it,” said Louisa Chafee, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and External Relations, UJA Federation NY.
"We are pleased that speed cameras in New York City school zones will be operational once again. These cameras improve traffic safety by reducing dangerous speeding. When families feel safe walking or biking to their destinations, they are less likely to drive, creating a healthier environment for everyone. Reduced speeding also cuts down on traffic congestion, which helps decrease vehicular greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution. We thank Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and Speaker Corey Johnson and the City Council, for working together to make New York City's streets safer for children and families, said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters."
"We applaud the actions taken by all the officials involved in renewing the school zone speed camera program,” said Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director for Bronx Health REACH at the Institute for Family Health. “With 1.1 million school children returning to school, including those in our 90 partner schools in the Bronx, the safety cameras will help ensure that students can walk to and from school and get more physical activity safely.”
"I'm so proud that the CEC for District 2 in Manhattan passed a resolution over 1 year ago supporting common sense, life saving legislation that ensures speed safety cameras can operate in school zones. It is affirming that there was a groundswell of grassroots and political support to find a workaround to the cynical attempt of some members of the state legislature to deprive their political opposition of "a win" at the expense of child safety," said Robin Broshi, President, Community Education Council District 2.