They will have to go back to the drawing board in 30 days.
The much ballyhooed agreement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio reached on Aug. 27 to re-activate cameras in New York City school zones to catch speeding drivers is good for only a month, officials acknowledged.
That’s because the executive order Cuomo signed on Monday to bring the speed cameras back was an emergency declaration, not a law.
The document was similar to those the governor has signed in the wake of natural disasters like floods and storms.
Cuomo said as much when he signed the executive order. The governor also hinted that if no action is taken by the state legislature to re-authorize the cameras permanently, he might have to keep returning to the issue every 30 days to renew the emergency declaration.
“And as I said this is an extraordinary action, but it’s an extraordinary situation. This is not a substitute for the state legislature coming back and passing the law. We still need the Senate to act responsibly and come back and pass a permanent law so we don’t have to do this, 30 days by 30 days interim situation,” Cuomo said.
During the 2017-2018 legislative session, the state Assembly, in which Democrats hold the majority of seats, passed a bill authorizing the extension of a 2013 pilot program for speed cameras in school zones. The pilot program went into effect in 2013 but was meant to last for only five years. The Republican-led state Senate did not take a vote. As a result, the bill died.
The legislative session ended in June with no action. The pilot program expired on July 25.
Responding to pleas from families of victims and transportation safety advocates to take action, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson worked with de Blasio and Cuomo on a deal to re-activate speed cameras in time for the opening of the city’s public schools on Sept. 5.
In the executive order, the governor authorized the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to give the city to access to records kept by the agency on drivers recorded speeding on camera. The mayor, meanwhile, is expediting the process by which the council can pass a bill authorizing the cameras to be reactivated. The council plans to go into emergency session on Aug. 29 to vote.
But the deal has skeptics, including state Sen. Martin Golden, a Republican whose district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Golden said a permanent solution is needed.
“People need to understand that this executive order is a 30-day solution to the speed zone school program problem. A short-term solution is no solution at all,” Golden said.
On Monday, Golden renewed his call for Cuomo to order the Senate back into session to take up a speed camera bill.
Still, transportation safety advocates said they’re pleased because at least something was done, even if it is only for the short term.
Brooklyn resident Amy Cohen, a founder of Families for Safe Streets, a group largely made up of parents whose children have been killed by speeding drivers, said the emergency declaration was necessary. Cohen’s 12-year-old son, Sammy Eckstein, was struck and killed by a diver on Prospect Park West in 2013.
“The city and governor are taking action because this is an emergency,” she told this newspaper in an email on Aug. 28.
The city’s 1.1 million school children will return to class next week “and their lives are in danger,” Cohen said.
Families for Safe Streets “has fought hard to make sure people understand that each life lost is more than a statistic,” Cohen said. “Sammy was a bright, kind, funny and caring child who deserved to live a full life. We will keep fighting until the Senate passes a bill to renew and expand the speed safety camera program.”
Speed cameras not only keep street safer for school children, they also increase safety for senior citizens, according to the AARP.
David McNally, AARP’s New York advocacy director, said senior citizens are vulnerable when they cross the streets.
“New York City’s school zone speed cameras are a proven deterrent, reducing speeding by 60 percent outside schools where they have been deployed. They not only keep our students safer, but prevent accidents for New Yorkers of all ages. New Yorkers 65 and over are most at risk of being killed in pedestrian accidents, accounting for half of all pedestrian fatalities even though they make up just 14 percent of New York City’s population,” McNally said in a statement.