NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill Tuesday restoring the school zone speed camera program, a day before schools open on Sept. 5.

“This is an issue that really came down to the basics — were we going to do something to protect kids,” de Blasio said during a signing ceremony at City Hall.

Mayor de Blasio credited safety advocates for helping to get the bill passed.

“You have changed the course of history because for a long time the idea that was the conventional wisdom was that speed cameras were politically unpopular,” de Blasio said. “But you made it a matter of life and death because it is a matter of life and death. You explained to the city and state that this was about protecting children. You changed the entire discussion.”

The cameras went dark after the state Senate adjourned in June without renewing the program’s authorization.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last week declaring the lack of cameras constituted an emergency, endangering the lives of children.

Drivers will face $50 fines if they’re caught on camera going more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in school zones.

Cuomo also credited the strength of advocates like Amy Cohen who had been fighting to make it happen.

It was nearly five years ago when 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein was struck and killed by a van while walking home from school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His mother, Amy Cohen, turned her pain into power with the group “Families For Safe Streets,” fighting to keep speed cameras in school zones.

“His friends just all graduated high school and left this week for college and he got left behind,” Cohen said on Aug. 27. “It’s still with us for the rest of our lives. We miss him every day.”

“We have an epidemic. This is a vaccine,” Cohen added. “It saves lives and it’s about time people put politics aside.”

Speed enforcement cameras were put in 140 school zones in New York City to crack down on dangerous driving.

School zone speed camera (Photo: CBS2)

The cameras outside the Razi School in Woodside, Queens, were credited with a 60 percent reduction in speeding on the stretch of Queens Boulevard since they were installed.

But it has been about a month since speed cameras went dark, when legislators couldn’t agree on the cameras versus other enforcement methods such as stop signs and more police enforcement. Failing to renew the law by the end of their session, legislators went home.

MORENYC Under Pressure To Prevent Speeding In School Zones

“They are putting politics before public safety,” Gov. Cuomo said prior to the program being brought back. “I never believed they would be this irresponsible, this tone-deaf where they would actually jeopardize young lives to this extent. School opens next week. That is gonna drastically increase the potential for loss of life if the speed cameras are not operational.”

The governor credited collaborative work with Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to get the speed cameras back up and running.

But mostly, he thanked people like Amy Cohen for not giving up.

“Because of your actions and actions today lives may be saved,” the governor said.

“Today we are celebrating this life-saving step forward,” Cohen said.

This was not a replacement of the current law — more so a temporary fix. The state Senate still has to come back and renew the law in order for it to be permanent, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.


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