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Speed cameras in NYC school zones will be reinstated

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The City Council, Mayor, and Governor will all play a role in bringing cameras back

Max Touhey

With just over a week before New York City’s public schools are back in session, a deal has been reached to bring speed cameras back to school zones. The Wall Street Journal reports that the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo will all play a role in getting speed camera legislation reinstated, allowing the city to track and ticket drivers who exceed the posted limit.

How it’ll work: Cuomo will sign an executive order allowing the city to access necessary data to track offending drivers; the City Council will convene an emergency session this week to vote on what the New York Post calls “a piece of complex legislation” to legally reinstate the 140 cameras currently in school zones; and De Blasio is expected to sign the whole thing into law before school is back in session.

“We know these cameras save lives and we know what we need to protect the children of New York City,” Amy Cohen, one of the founders of Families for Safe Streets, said in a statement. Her 12-year-old son, Sammy, was killed by a van driver in 2013. “The governor and city leaders understand just how serious this issue is, and rather than play politics they are taking action and doing what’s right for our children.”

Earlier today, Cuomo signed an executive order declaring a public safety emergency, which overrides the sunset clause in the speed camera legislation, allowing the city get the program back in place.

This move allows the city to leave the Republican-controlled state Senate out of the decision. The state legislature failed to come to an agreement extending speed camera laws before it broke for the summer, and Senate majority leader John Flanagan refused to convene a special session to reinstate the legislation. Safe streets advocates have been keeping the pressure on legislators, to no avail.

“In the face of the Senate Republicans’ shameful inaction and with the school year set to begin, we are taking emergency action to reinstate the speed cameras program and protect our children,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is extraordinary action for an extraordinary situation—but I continue to call on the Senate Republicans to do their job and pass lifesaving speed camera legislation once and for all.”

The city has kept the cameras running since July 25, when the law expired, although it currently has no authority to ticket speeding drivers. The DOT found that more than 132,000 drivers violated the speed limit in the two weeks after the legislation expired, and that number has likely only grown since.

“Children’s lives are at stake,” City Council speaker Corey Johnson told the WSJ. “We wanted Albany to act, and they didn’t, so we had to act.”

The Council had, in recent weeks, discussed other measures the city could take to discourage speeding in school zones, including potentially closing streets near schools to traffic. Council Member Brad Lander also introduced a package of bills known as the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, which would allow the city to keep track of dangerous drivers and take them off the road if they’re routinely caught by speed cameras.