School starts Sept. 8 in Staten Island, N.Y., where the community is still reeling from the hit-and-run death of a seventh-grade student on June 28. Officials and parents alike are waiting on state legislators to consider “Aniya’s Law,” which would require that school bus transportation be restored to all seventh- and eighth-grade students who live more than 1 mile from their school.
On June 23 the state Senate passed its version of the bill, named for 13-year-old Aniya Williams, who was killed in late June by a tractor-trailer as she was running to catch a transit bus after school. Williams rode a yellow school bus until the service was eliminated. The legislation expands the idea of restoring school bus service to all of New York City, including Queens, according to Michael Reilly of the Community Education Council (CEC) District 31.
Currently, the bill is in the state Assembly Education Committee, and, if it passes, it will then be sent to the Ways & Means Committee to determine costs and funding.
CEC 31 has launched a letter-writing campaign to move up the full Assembly vote on “Aniya’s Law” from January 2012 to this fall.
Reilly reported that hundreds of letters have been sent to Assembly members, and he urged the public to continue using the form letter provided by CEC 31. He said he is pleased to have the support of Assemblyman Mike Cusick and the cooperation of the Staten Island Department of Transportation (DOT) Borough Commissioner Tom Cocola. Reilly recently met with Cocola to discuss implementing safety measures in Staten Island before school resumes next month.
“So far, the DOT says they are looking at revisiting traffic patterns at the the Staten Island School of Civic Leadership (which Aniya Williams attended). Right on the side of the school is the Staten Island Expressway, one of the major highways,” said Reilly. “They are revisiting posting signs to reduce speeds to 25 mph.”
Though Reilly is working “hand-in-hand” with the Borough Commission Office and the NYPD School Safety Division, he said he is disappointed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s refusal to reinstate transportation for seventh- and eighth-grade students. Bus services were slashed in September 2010 after New York City appealed a state Supreme Court ruling and won — cancelling a 42-year variance that provided for bus services in a borough known for its lack of sidewalks and heavy traffic.
Mayor Bloomberg oversees the NYC school system, which is considered one district by the state but contains 32 school districts that teach 1.1 million K-12 students. With 60,000 students, Staten Island is the only borough considered one district, Reilly explained.
“One way of saving money, the mayor claimed, was to cut bus services for seventh- and eighth-graders…By taking this away, he estimated they would save about $6 million, but in reality, it’s down to about $1.2 million,” Reilly said. “Although they took away this busing, you’d think they would consolidate to knock out routes, but every route is still in place and no money is being saved.
“It’s a measly $1 million: is that how we’re valuing a child’s life? We’re lucky more accidents didn’t happen. There were a few incidents last year of children being struck by cars on the way to and from school, but nothing serious.”
To speed up the Assembly vote on “Aniya’s Law,” Moore has sent his 2009 report, “A Proposal to Improve Safety in Transportation in Staten Island Schools,” to members of the Education and Ways & Means Committees.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article indicated Williams attended the School for Expeditionary Learning. This was based on information originally obtained for the article. We regret any confusion this may have caused.