The clock is ticking. The New York State Legislature is set to adjourn June 20, and if State Senators José Peralta (D-Queens) and Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) cannot agree on a safety plan for New York City schools before then, the current school zone speed camera program will expire on July 25.
The program began in 2013 with 20 cameras, and due to its success in reducing accidents, 120 cameras were added in 2014. Recently, Senator Peralta introduced a bill to increase the total number of cameras to 290, thereby also increasing the percentage of school zones covered by speed cameras to 14 percent.
Peralta stressed to The Jewish Press that his bill is not designed to be “a cash grab,” and that fines would remain $50. He added that school zones with cameras saw a 63 percent decline in accidents, and 81 percent of vehicles haven’t received a second ticket – meaning that most speeders in school zones have learned their lesson.
But Peralta’s bill lacks the support of one key legislator: Simcha Felder. Though elected as a Democrat, Felder often caucuses with Republicans and provides them the 32nd vote they need to retain control of the State Senate. Without Felder’s vote, Peralta’s bill won’t become law.
“I’m opposed to expanding or doing anything with cameras until Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city wakes up and understands that we are living in a time of terrorism throughout the world, and there should be a cop with a gun in front of every school,” Felder told NY1 News channel.
Felder has introduced an alternative bill which, instead of increasing the number of speed cameras, would extend authorization of the current 140 cameras through the summer of 2020, create an HOV lane on the Williamsburg Bridge, and place an armed New York City police officer in front of every New York City school, contingent on the buy-in of the school’s principal, which Peralta believes entails an unduly long and tedious process.
Simcha Felder didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.