Speed cameras back on before NYC kids start school

NEW YORK -- They just beat the first bell: a day before 1.1 million kids return to school in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation putting speed cameras back in action.

There was no controversy or playing politics inside the blue room at City Hall Tuesday, the crowd overwhelmingly relieved that de Blasio and other politicians found a way to turn speed cameras back on before kids return to school on Wednesday.

But before the mayor signed the legislation, he gave credit to the advocates who helped keep the program alive.

"You made it a matter of life and death because it is a matter of life and death. You explained to the people of this city and this state that this was about protecting children," de Blasio said.

Among the advocates was Amy Cohen, whose son Samuel was killed in 2013 after being hit by a van just outside Prospect Park.

"Today, I would like to most thank my brave son, who was on the cusp of becoming a young man named Sam, but who died still as a child named Sammy," Cohen said, as she wiped away tears. "He inspires me every single day."

The evidence leaves little doubt about the impact cameras have had on drivers. School zones with cameras saw a 63 percent reduction in speeding, while pedestrian deaths dropped 55 percent.

Up in Albany, the state Assembly voted to extend the speed camera bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was ready to sign it, but the bill never made it out of the state Senate.

That forced the governor to issue a state of emergency, allowing the mayor and City Council to restart the program.

"Look I cannot understand any kind of politics that stands in the way of protect kids," de Blasio said. "I cannot understand a political calculation that somehow puts partisan interests ahead of the needs of kids."

While speed cameras will go back into effect for the first day of school, the solution is only temporary, which is why advocates are calling for the state senate to step up and pass the bill for good.

"Be a part of this amazing move senators and go one step further: expand the number of cameras to protect all New York City school children," said Zane Walker, whose friend Lucian Merryweather was killed in a car crash in 2013. "Get passed the nitty-gritty politics and do what is right. Do what kids need."

But with no plans to return to Albany until November, the Senate seems to have made it very clear: for them, speed is not an issue.