State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who made a controversial switch to the Independent Democratic Conference in late January, was given a leadership title Tuesday when he was appointed vice chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. The post comes with a $12,500 stipend, which is down from the $14,500 stipend he had received as minority whip with the mainline Democrats.
Peralta had insisted his move to the IDC was not for financial reasons in refuting an article in the New York Post. “I joined the IDC for principles not over a pay raise,” Peralta said.
In his first legislative victory since defecting, Peralta announced Monday that his bill aimed at cracking down on drivers who speed in school zones passed in the state Senate. Under the bill, drivers convicted of two or more speeding violations in school zones during school hours over an 18-month period would have their licenses suspended for 60 days.
“Motor vehicle crashes is the leading cause of injury-related death for children between the ages of 5 and 14,” Peralta said. “The safety of our children is a top priority for me, and this bill is one more tool to protect them. This is all about saving lives and making our streets safer for all of us.”
When Peralta switched to the IDC, bringing its membership to eight in the state Senate where the group is allied with Republicans to form a majority coalition, his move touched off rallies and a contentious town hall meeting in Jackson Heights. Peralta said he made the move so he could take “bold action” and deliver on his progressive agenda to his constituency.
Peralta’s bill S.336B is an effort to protect schoolchildren and surrounding communities, holding reckless and negligent motorists who speed responsible for their actions. In 2015, according to the city Department of Transportation, more than 1,000 children under the age of 17 were injured in traffic crashes and nine children were killed.
The school speeding zone legislation will put penalties in line with the current construction and work zone rules under which drivers lose their licenses for 60 days if convicted of two or more speeding tickets in these areas.
“The same way we protect the construction workers on our highways, we must also ensure that we protect the state’s schoolchildren,” Peralta said.
Another bill introduced by Peralta last April, which would allow the city to install more speed cameras in school zones and allow them to operate 24 hours a day, is gaining support in the five boroughs. According to a Penn Shoen Berland poll commissioned by Transportation Alternatives, 64 percent of nearly 900 likely voters said they strongly support the increase in speed cameras, currently capped at 140 by state law.
“These poll results send a powerful message that people across the five boroughs want greater protection from the reckless speeding that remains a leading killer of New Yorkers and is especially lethal for our children,” TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “In areas where these devices have been installed, we’ve seen a 50 percent drop in speeding on average. We know this Vision Zero tool works. We need to be able to use it to save lives and prevent injuries in every community, at all times.”
The cameras currently in operation issue tickets to motorists who are caught driving more than 10 mph above the posted speed limit with a $50 fine. Peralta has called speed cameras a “crucial tool” in protecting the city’s one million schoolchildren.
“The survey is proof of the overwhelming support the installation of more speed cameras in school zones has,” Peralta said. “We are not just talking about the safety of our children, but also protecting pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr
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