With the cameras set to expire on July 25, family members of victims who have been killed by speeding drivers spoke passionately last Thursday about the need to expand the program.
They gathered at the corner of Northern and Junction boulevards, where 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo was fatally struck in a hit-and-run in December 2015. Like many victims, Jaramillo was crossing the street on Northern Boulevard and had the right of way.
Raul Ampuero’s nine-year-old son, Giovanni, was killed crossing 70th Street and Northern Boulevard in March. He said on Thursday that though his son could not have been saved, speed cameras can still save another child’s life.
“There hasn’t been a single day that I have forgotten my son, and I don’t think I will ever,” he said. “There’s not a single day that I don’t cry for my son.”
“But that’s not going to bring him back,” Ampuero added. “At least what I can do is prevent another kid from school going through the same thing my family went through.”
Karen Manrique, Ampuero’s mother, was holding her son after he was hit. She said his last words were, “Don’t let me go, mommy,” and “I love mommy and daddy.”
“I wish it would’ve been me, not him. He was everything to me,” she said. “I miss him everyday. I miss his love, his kisses.”
According to State Senator Jose Peralta, five minors have been killed along Northern Boulevard in just the last five years. Peralta co-sponsors legislation to extend the speed camera program, and add another 150 cameras over the next three years.
The bill would also expand the cameras’ reach to operate within a quarter-mile from designated schools. They would run one hour before and after school hours.
In order to do so before the initiative expires, the State Senate, controlled by Republicans, needs to go back up to Albany for an extended session. Peralta joined advocates to demand that Majority Leader John Flanagan call a session.
He said they have 34 state senators signed onto the bill, including three Republicans, which is two more than what’s needed to pass the legislation.
“Time is running out, we have no more excuses,” he said. “We have to do the right thing by the schoolchildren.”
Peralta cited DOT data that shows there has been a 63 percent drop in speeding violations since the 140 cameras were installed. More than 80 percent of drivers who received a speeding ticket in a school zone were never issued a second one.
“It tells us that it changes behavior,” Peralta said. “That’s what we want to do.”
Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden, an influential Republican in Albany, previously supported a separate bill that would end the speed camera program in six months. Instead, GOP-backed legislation would add additional traffic signs.
But last week, Golden reportedly reversed his position in response to protests and backlash from his flip-flop. He is now calling for the State Senate to reconvene to pass the expansion bill.
Peralta said he’s “appreciative” his colleague switched his position.
Lizi Rahman, whose son Asif was also killed by a driver, said all of the elected officials who can reauthorize the program also have kids and grandchildren. She pleaded with them to pass the legislation “for the sake of your future generation.”
“Please, do something so that we can get speed cameras so other sons like mine and Mr. Raul’s will be saved,” she said.