According to one city official, in the two weeks after the cameras shut off, at least 14 people have been killed or critically injured in crashes, including an 11-year-old who was struck in a school zone.
“The school year is only weeks away,” said Victor Calise, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities,” and we cannot let 1.1 million kids return to school without the protection they deserve.”
Calise joined local elected officials and safety and disability advocates last Wednesday at MS 88 in South Slope to call on the State Senate to reauthorize the cameras. Legislation in Albany, which passed in the Assembly but hasn’t been voted on in the State Senate, would add 150 additional cameras over three years.
The Republican majority in the upper chamber, led by Long Island’s John Flanagan, has declined to call legislators back up to Albany for a vote, even though the bill has enough votes to pass.
According to Calise, there are nearly 1 million New York City residents with disabilities. More than 5,000 live in this part of Brooklyn, and a quarter of them attend MS 88, which has benefitted from speed cameras.
But if the program is not renewed, the remaining 20 mobile speed cameras at the city’s disposal will be turned off by the end of the month.
“Every day without speed cameras, our students and families’ lives are at risk,” said Yolanda Torres, executive director of the Division of Family and Community Engagement at the Department of Education. “Students, families and communities at large must be safe as they travel to and from a school building.”
Caitlin Cassaro, executive director of the organization Extreme Kids and Crew, said children with disabilities often travel in a way that’s “not recognizable” to the general public. That makes them even more vulnerable to speeding drivers.
For example, Cassaro’s son, who is autistic, often makes “erratic movements.”
“One minute he’s there, and he may suddenly turn around and run somewhere else,” she said. “You need to have time to react to that.
“Kids are already in danger, we know that from speeding and traffic accidents,” Cassaro added. “But kids with disabilities are that much more because people are not looking for them.”
Local lawmakers criticized the Republican leadership in the State Senate for not passing what they call a common-sense bill. Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the main sponsor of the legislation, said the bill originally called for 700 additional cameras, but was negotiated down to 150 more.
She noted that there are 1,300 school buildings in New York City, 900 of which house elementary school students.
“This is a negotiated bill, Senator Flanagan,” Glick said. “This is the result of taking into consideration all of the objections that were raised.”
Glick said it is “an absolute disgrace” that a handful of senators is blocking safety for school children.
“The only reason that one could give for not reauthorizing it is that the State Senate is more concerned about the rights of speeders than they are about the rights of school children,” she said.
Assemblyman Robert Carroll added that the majority of the Republicans in the State Senate don’t live in New York City.
“So it’s not their kids at risk, it’s not their families at risk,” he said. “They don’t care about New York City.”
If the State Senate continues to shirk its responsibility, Carroll said, then Governor Andrew Cuomo should “step in” and call the entire State Legislature back to Albany before the school year begins.
“I know the Assembly majority will do its job,” Carroll said. “Let’s see if the State Senate will.”