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Without speed cameras, city moves to impose safety measures in school zones

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As the calendar ticks down the September 5 start of the school session across New York, transit advocates and the head of the City Council’s transportation committee suggested New York City close streets around school buildings if the state doesn’t act in some way to turn on the city’s 140 speed cameras in school zones that were turned off on July 25th.

With the school year starting, city officials have kept the pressure on the Republican-held state Senate to return to Albany and pass a bill that would expand the number of speed cameras in school zones to 290. The mayor recently announced that cameras, which are still collecting speeding data (if not catching offenders), tracked 132,000 drivers moving 11 miles per hour above the speed limit in the previously covered school zones. That figure was backed up by the NYPD’s Chief of Transportation, Thomas Chan, who told the City Council yesterday that there was a 33 percent increase in speeding summonses given out between July 25 and July 27 in areas covered by cameras.

But in the absence of state action, Wednesday’s Transportation Committee hearing also served as a place for the city to act on its own to protect students. Before the hearing, Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White told Curbed he wanted the city to explore the drastic step of shutting streets near schools to traffic. “[Closing streets] would cause many drivers to scream bloody murder, but that’s the kind of pressure required to be placed on the state Senators to get them to act. If the city can’t have the authority to control its own streets, the city should shut them down,” Steely White said.

During the hearing itself, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who heads up the committee, asked DOT if the idea was on the table for this fall. Rebecca Forgione, the agency’s Chief Operations Office, responded that “in terms of personnel in order to carry that out, it would be a challenge,” since there are 3,000 schools in the city, and that the idea could raise new safety concerns.

“We won’t give up until the last second on restoring the speed cameras around schools,” Rodriguez told Curbed. The council member said he’d prefer some kind of action is taken in Albany before school is in session, whether that’s the state Senate reconvening to pass the bill or Governor Andrew Cuomo signing an executive order turning the cameras back on. In the absence of that action, though, he said he refuses to see the city caught flat-footed when the school year starts.

“I feel we need to have a backup plan,” Rodriguez explained. “Part of that could be an increase of crossing guards around schools, but also [we should] look at schools where logistically we can ban cars around them.”

Yesterday’s committee hearing was focused on a number of bills to improve street safety, including Brad Lander’s bills that made up the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, a package of laws that would allow the city to keep track of dangerous drivers and take drivers off the road if they’re routinely caught by speed cameras. Forgione told the Council that while the DOT supports the idea of removing reckless drivers from the road, the bill “raises legal issues that require further review,” since the state ultimately controls issues like suspending licenses.

Those bills depend in large part on whether the state Senate actually lets the city turn the cameras back on. “It’s hard to proceed, because you need to pass a bill that uses the red light cameras’ authorization,” Lander told Curbed after the hearing. While he said there are ways to move the bill forward if the Senate never turns the cameras back on, the next steps for the legislation are still to lobby and push the Senate to reauthorize the cameras since it would make for a stronger program.

Source: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/8/16/17705148/nyc-speed-cameras-school-zones-city-council

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School buses

Teacher charged after killing pedestrian while driving drunk

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A city public school teacher is charged after police say she killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in the Bronx.

Police say 33-year-old Shakira Price was driving on Pelham Parkway South near Eastchester Road yesterday morning when she collided with another car, traveling in the same direction.

She then kept driving and hit 57-year-old Raymond Bolan, who was crossing the street.

The incident occurred around 10 a.m. on Friday morning.

Price faces multiple charges, including vehicular manslaughter and DWI.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education called the allegations “appalling and disgraceful,” adding, “Ms. Price has already been reassigned away from the classroom and we are pursuing her removal from payroll as soon as legally possible.”

Source: http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2018/09/15/teacher-charged-after-killing-pedestrian-while-driving-drunk#

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I-Team: Only a Few School Districts in New York Require Kids to Wear Seat Belts on Buses

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Before the school year begins in Yonkers Public Schools, the youngest students board a school bus for life-saving lessons: they learn to board the bus, exit the bus in an emergency and they learn to buckle up.

“If they are required to wear a seatbelt in the car with their parents, they should be required to wear a seatbelt on the bus as well,” said parent Genell Lloyd.

Sounds logical, but not the law, as the I-Team has learned. In New York State, school buses are required to have lap belts but it is up to each district if kids must wear them.

In Yonkers, pre-K, kindergarteners, and first grade students must wear seat belts, but after that, kids are on their own. Out of 733 school districts in the state, only about twenty of them require students wear seat belts, according to the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.
“There are operational questions of who is going to make sure the kids are buckled in,” said Peter Mannella, who serves as executive director. “Who is liable if the kids aren’t buckled in?”

That’s one reason the association is opposed to a bill in Albany that would make seat-belt use mandatory. But more importantly, it cites federal research that the size and design of large buses, not belts, best protect kids in a crash.

“It’s the safest way to get kids to school,” said Mannella
In May, just after a deadly school bus crash in New Jersey, in which all the students were wearing lap belts, the NTSB called for all new buses to have 3-point shoulder belts. Videos from seat belt manufacturers shows the life-saving difference in a rollover crash.

While New Jersey quickly moved to make shoulder belts the law, there has been no rush in Albany.

“The current state of affairs is very lax,” according to state Sen. David Carlucci (D-38th Senate District)
Carlucci has drafted a bill to mandate three point shoulder belts on buses and make it a law that all students wear it. But already there has been pushback.

“It might be safer for kids, but we still have to argue through the logistics,” said Mannella of the NY State Association for Pupil Transportation. “It’s not the industry saying we don’t like seatbelts. Give us a chance to figure this out and the cost of them. It could be 10-12 thousand dollars more on a 120 thousand dollar bus already.”

Parents in New York can call your school to ask about the seat belt requirements and talk to your kids about buckling up. Connecticut is one of the many states that does not yet require seat belts on buses.

Source: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/I-Team-New-York-Seat-Belt-Laws-NY-Albany-School-Year-492421101.html

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NYC’s schools bureaucracy creates horror for parents and kids

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While Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza spends much of his time railing about “bias,” the dysfunctional system he oversees is leaving medically needy special-ed kids twisting in the wind — and it’s just that kind of dysfunction that hurts poor minorities the most.

As The Post reported, federal Judge William Pauley III last week let a lawsuit against the Department of Education proceed, ripping the DOE as a “cumbersome and counter-intuitive bureaucracy” whose failure to coordinate nursing and transportation services for four disabled kids forced them to miss class for much of the school year.
That put it mildly. Letting kids go without school for so long is beyond outrageous. And while the lawsuit names only four children, Advocates for Children lawyers say “the entire system is broken.” No doubt.

The problem in a nutshell: The DOE is so complex and disjointed that parents are often stuck with big problems that are near-impossible to navigate.

In the case of the special-ed kids, the process of approving and coordinating services is split among three offices (for special-ed, health and transportation) and the schools themselves. Yet there’s no mechanism for the offices and schools to work together to ensure all i’s get dotted and t’s crossed.

All the DOE had to do to get these kids what they needed was 1) approve applications, 2) arrange for bus service and 3) contract for nurses to accompany the kids to and from school. Yet it fumbled that.

One parent told The Post that her 8-year-old son, who suffers from severe seizures, missed kindergarten for two years because he never got the “bus nurse” the DOE arranged for him.

Such problems aren’t limited to special-ed kids. The DOE bureaucracy, shielded by its very complexity, stymies parents on a host of fronts. And kids of poor parents — who lack the time, money or know-how to overcome those hurdles — suffer most.

Instead of railing about the supposed implicit-bias of white parents, maybe Carranza should focus on cutting red tape, easing the burden on parents and getting schools to function properly.

Source: https://nypost.com/2018/09/03/nycs-schools-bureaucracy-creates-horror-for-parents-and-kids/

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