School speed camera program expires soon, unless vote is called

BENSONHURST, Brooklyn – The clock is ticking on the school speed camera program, which is set to expire in on July 25 unless state lawmakers reconvene and call a vote.

City leaders say it’s a vital part of the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and on Friday came an urgent plea from street safety advocates and the NYPD’s chief of transportation. They held a news conference at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

“In 2013, our daughter Allison Liao was walking across the street in the crosswalk with the right of way with her grandma holding her hand,” His-Pei Liao said. “They were just going out to do grocery shopping coming home, all of a sudden a car runs her over.”

It’s been nearly five years since the Liao family lost their 3-year-old daughter, Ally, who was struck and killed in Flushing. The driver received a ticket but was never arrested or charged. Her death sparked her parents to push for safer streets.

“We’re here today because we want Sen. Flanagan and Sen. Golden to go back to Albany and do their job,” mom Amy Tam-Liao said. “We want to pass the speed safety cameras, we know they work 8 out of 10 people who get a speed camera ticket do not get another ticket.”

There are 140 school zones currently equipped with speed cameras and 120 of those cameras will be turned off on July 25. The remaining 20 cameras will be off by the end of August. This will happen unless state lawmakers reconvene and vote to extend the program.

“The speed camera program has proven to be an effective contributor for safer streets and an efficient supplement to the enforcement performed by uniformed New York City Police Department personnel,” said Thomas Chan, NYPD chief of transportation.

From 2014 to 2016, locations featuring speed cameras experienced a 63 percent decline in speeding violations and an annual 15 percent reduction in injuries to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists involved in collisions. Additionally, proponents say the speed cameras serve as a deterrent and 81 percent of vehicle owners who received violations in school zones did not get another one during the same two year time period.

The cameras "both support and supplement the work of our New York City police officers, they free our officers up for other assignments when having electronic cameras out there,” Chan said.

Advocates say the cameras are needed to protect those most vulnerable: children and seniors.

“So many of our seniors are vulnerable to pedestrian vehicle accidents. In fact, four times the number of people killed during these accidents are seniors,” said Charise Lawrence, who oversees the city’s Department of Aging.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate. Opponents to speed cameras say more stop signs and traffic lights are more effective measures. The Liaos say every measure must be taken.

“We want to protect our children. Ihave my parents walking in the street. We’ve been hit once. We don’t want another tragedy,” Tam-Liao said.