By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Hours before New York City schools reopened for 1.1 million students, Dept of Education Local 372 and a coalition of grassroots groups and elected officials rallied outside City Hall to celebrate a major public safety victory after Gov. Cuomo ordered the return of traffic cameras in school zones.
“School Crossing Guards put themselves in the middle of busy streets every day to protect lives and keep kids safe,” said Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I. “We prevent traffic fatalities before they happen.”
“There are just 2,500 School Crossing Guards in the city. We need more. We need crossing guards at every school,” said Francois. “School safety is a must. Crossing guards are a must. More cameras now!”
Francois joined City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, State Sen. Jose Peralta, Assembly members Robert Carroll and Felix Ortiz, Bronx DA Darcel Clark, City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez, Brad Lander, Bobby Carrol and others to applaud the bold emergency actions of Gov. Cuomo, Mayor DeBlasio and the City Council after 36 Republican senators in Albany failed to vote and allowed the school zone safety camera program to expire last July. The governor must renew the emergency bill every 30 days until the Senate votes.
Local 372 and activists won support for more cameras from several city and state lawmakers. Currently 70 percent of city schools are covered but that’s not enough. Council member Rodriguez said, “Every 36 hours a pedestrian is struck by a moving vehicle in New York City.”
Senate Republicans in Albany limited the expansion plan to 50 cameras a year for three years, down from 750 cameras advocates wanted. They were criticized for not acting to protect New York City school children.
Traffic cameras record the speed of vehicles driving near schools. Speeders can get a $50 ticket. Eighty percent of those ticketed once don’t repeat the offense, studies show. Traffic cameras work. Speeding near schools dropped by 65 percent. Traffic fatalities near schools fell by 55 percent.
“We held three hiring halls for School Crossing Guards and got 2,000 applicants. Where are they? Why were none hired?” asked Francois. The union is pressing the City Council for funds and pressing the Police Dept. to hire crossing guards.
The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal employees in New York City. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Public Employee Press.