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NYC poised to reinstitute school zone speed camera program

August 27, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York City is poised to reactivate 140 speed cameras in school zones after city leaders and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan Monday that will circumvent the state Legislature, where Republican leaders in the Senate had allowed the program to expire.

The devices, which had not been taken down, should be operational before the start of fall classes next week.

The program expired last month after the Senate adjourned for the year without passing legislation renewing the cameras. To get around that obstacle, Cuomo on Monday issued an executive order that reactivates the cameras for 30 days. The City Council is expected to vote to authorize the program on Wednesday.

Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy was struck and killed by a truck in 2012, said the renewal of the program will save lives. Cohen is now a leading advocate for pedestrian safety in the city.

“When your child dies, it’s hard to be grateful,” she said at a news conference announcing the extension. “Today there is some light amid our personal darkness, and we have found a way to be grateful.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who worked with Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on the details of the plan, said he’ll push lawmakers in Albany to pass a stronger, broader speed camera law.

“Our fight will not stop after today,” he said.

While the cameras can no longer be used to ticket speeders, they’re still turned on, giving the city an idea of how many cars have sped by since the law expired. The total in the first two weeks: more than 130,000.

The legislative workaround rests on Cuomo’s ability to declare public emergencies and issue executive orders. Cuomo said he’s confident he is on firm legal ground but acknowledged he was pursuing “an aggressive legal strategy.” Cuomo said the impending start of the school year creates an emergency need to ensure student safety.

“Emergency situations are normally things like fires, floods, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, but an emergency is an emergency — by definition a situation that may cause the loss of human life,” Cuomo said. He cited figures showing a 55 percent decline in accidents and fatalities in city school zones since the cameras were first installed.

Cuomo could issue another order renewing the program every 30 days but said it would be preferable for the Senate to reconvene to pass a long-term extension. Lawmakers aren’t due back in Albany until January.

Senate leaders have so far balked at requests to return early and have blamed Cuomo and the Assembly’s Democratic leaders for the impasse over the cameras.

“We have said all along that our majority supports extending this program to keep speed cameras on,” said Republican Senate spokeswoman Candice Giove. “In fact, we’d even consider codifying the governor’s executive order into law.”

During his remarks Monday Cuomo thanked his frequent nemesis, fellow Democrat de Blasio, for his help on the issue, saying the two men “personally spent a lot of time” working on it.

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