NYC Students Rally for Speed Cameras at Every School. Where Is Jeff Klein?

With time running out on the legislative session in Albany, NYC students and parents gathered at City Hall this morning to call on the state legislature to expand the city’s life-saving speed camera program. Pending legislation in Albany would allow New York City to effectively enforce the speed limit at all of its schools, but it currently lacks support from State Senator Jeff Klein, who holds the key to getting the bill through the state legislature.

“We know [cameras] are effective when it comes to changing the reckless behavior of drivers,” said Families for Safe Streets member Sofia Russo, a school teacher whose daughter Ariel was killed by a reckless driver in 2013.

State Senator Jeff Klein has been critical to establishing NYC’s automated speed enforcement program, but he hasn’t signed on to a bill that would expand it to every school.

In a 14-month span, reckless drivers killed three students from M.S. 51 in Brooklyn. Many of the children at the rally were their classmates. “The school children that are here today are joining us because at such a young age they have already known loss,” Russo said. “This should never happen. No child should die while walking to school.”

Automated enforcement has proven effective at reducing the incidence of speeding, which is a leading cause of traffic deaths in the city. Speeding declined 60 percent where the city’s current 140 cameras have been installed, according to NYC DOT. But with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of them have no automated speed enforcement nearby.

Current state law limits New York City to 140 speed cameras that can only be operated within a half-mile of a school, and only during school activities. Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, would address those shortcomings by allowing NYC to install speed cameras at every schools at all times.

Public Advocate Letitia James and council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Brad Lander spoke in support of Glick’s bill this morning.

“There are those who are afraid to pass this bill because people will be upset that they get tickets,” said Van Bramer, who has a resolution pending in the council that endorses the speed camera legislation. “Let me say loud and clear: If you speed in front of a school, you should get a ticket.”

“Interventions like speed cameras have kept our children safe,” James said. “We need our state lawmakers to act — and we need them to act now. Because we don’t want them to just protect some of our kids, but all of our kids.”

Image: Transportion Alternatives
Image: Transportion Alternatives

While Glick’s bill has 29 co-sponsors in the Assembly — slightly less than half of the city’s delegation — its State Senate counterpart has just one: Queens Senator Jose Peralta. The Senate bill needs support from the chamber’s Republican-Independent Democratic Conference majority coalition in order to pass.

Advocates had hoped to win the support of Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference. Klein helped steer the 2013 and 2014 bills that initially established the program, but he hasn’t made any movement on this year’s push to expand the program.

“Our office is currently reviewing legislation provided to us by New York City, and Senator Klein remains committed to working to keep New York City’s streets safe for children, pedestrians and drivers,” Klein spokesperson Heather Sager told Streetsblog two weeks ago.