On the lookout
Speed cameras coming to a school near you
By Shant Shahrigian
Crossing guard Agueda Martinez directs vehicles at the intersection outside of the Robert J. Christen School (P.S. 81) with command at the start and close of every school day. On a recent afternoon, a pedestrian curtly told her not to blow the whistle near his ear.
“If you don’t like the whistle, you can use the other side of the street,” she retorted as she waved children, their parents and others across the busy intersection of Riverdale Avenue and West 256th Street.
Parents of students at P.S. 81 sang Ms. Martinez’s praises for tenaciously helping keep their children safe.
Still, city Department of Transportation (DOT) studies since 2011 have found between three quarters and 96 percent of drivers within a quarter mile of P.S. 81 drive at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. A 2013 study found at least three quarters of drivers regularly exceeding the speed limit near almost 100 different school zones across the city.
At the start of this school year, the DOT began a trial program using cameras to catch speeders in school zones. In an e-mail, the DOT said it has deployed 10 cameras throughout the city so far, with another 10 planned depending on how fast the city allocates additional funds. Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited P.S. 81 in June to tout that program alongside its main senate backer, Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein.
At the end of last month, the state legislature voted to expand the program by 120 more cameras.
The city previously said the program would use a mix of vehicle-mounted cameras and fixed devices, although the breakdown of the trial run was not clear. The camera at P.S. 81 appears to be a mobile device that comes on occasion.
The DOT said in an e-mail that the 10 trial cameras alone have led to more than 24,000 notices of violation since September. At a later stage, whose date was not announced, the tickets will bring fines of $50, but no points added to motorists’ driving records.