Children’s lives will be in danger because the Republican-led state Senate failed to pass legislation extending the use of speed cameras near city schools, Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The measure extending the four-year-old school zone camera program past its July 25 expiration stalled in the Senate as lawmakers ended their six-month 2018 session early Thursday morning. Hours later, de Blasio issued a statement chastising Senate Republicans for not taking up the legislation during the session’s final hours.
“Kids will be in danger. Kids will lose their lives,” the mayor said. “The State Assembly majority has shown the way with their expansion bill. Senate Republicans haven’t done their job until they pass the bill, which has majority support.”
The Democrat-controlled Assembly passed legislation that would extend the program as well as expand the number of cameras located around schools, something de Blasio also supports. But the safety measure didn’t come up for a vote in the Senate, where Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn, sides with Republicans to give each party 31 votes in the 63-seat chamber.
The Senate GOP held a one-vote edge until last month, when Sen. Tom Croci, a Long Island Republican, left Albany for active duty service in the Navy and didn’t return to Albany.
Later Thursday, members of “Families for Safe Streets” held a protest outside the governor’s Manhattan office where they directed their ire at Felder. About 10 protesters were taken into police custody following repeated warnings after they blocked Third Avenue while holding up a banner that read “Children are going to die!! Shame on you Felder.”
Supporters of the speed cameras say speeding violations in school zones have dropped by 60 percent in areas where the devices are located. Under the agreement that allowed 140 speed cameras to be installed, the Legislature must approve extending the program or the cameras have to be shut down in late July.
Felder said he wants revenue from speed camera fines to be used to place police officers at city schools, a move Assembly Democrats oppose.
Some legislators floated the idea that they might return for a brief special session to try to reach a deal on the bill, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, dismissed the idea.
“It is not my plan to bring the Assembly back,” he said, saying it would be up to Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan to call his chamber back to approve the speed camera bills already passed by the Assembly.
A Flanagan spokesman blamed Heastie for putting the brakes on speed cameras, one of numerous key issues that didn’t get done by the Legislature.
“He is solely to blame for what didn’t get done because for weeks he folded his arms and refused to discuss any of the key issues before the Legislature,” Scott Reif said.
(Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.)
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