IN THE NEWS: Staten Island Advance - Bill to restore yellow bus service passes state Senate

Andrew J Lanza

June 29, 2011

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A bill to amend the state education law to mandate that the city Department of Education provide yellow school bus transportation to children in grades three through eight who live more than one mile from school passed the state Senate in the waning days of the Legislature last week.

But it awaits action in the Assembly Education Committee, which could come if state lawmakers reconvene in a special session, possibly later in the summer.

The Bloomberg administration yanked yellow bus service for seventh- and eighth-graders at the start of the school year last fall to save an estimated $2.1 million annually.

Education officials argued that middle-school students citywide were old enough to take public transportation.

But borough officials said Staten Island youngsters are disproportionately affected, with fewer commuting options and fewer sidewalks.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), who authored the bill to restore yellow bus service, said yesterday's death of 13-year-old Aniya Williams in Mariners Harbor "turns my stomach."

He said bus restoration remains a "top priority" legislatively, because he "believes the city will prevail" in its lawsuit against reinstatement.

Last winter, State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco called DOE's decision "arbitrary and capricious."

Said Lanza: "I don't think this is about cost any longer. The Bloomberg administration can't speak to cost savings. I think it's about ego. The principals tell us there is chaos at arrival and dismissal time, that they need to call the Police Department. That mitigates money savings, and the safety factor trumps all. It's just bad policy. We need to reinstate service."

"The tragic accident that took place is exactly why Sen. Lanza and I introduced legislation to restore school bus service to Staten Island seventh- and eighth-grade students," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island), who sponsors the bill in the Assembly. "We wanted to act pre-emptively in order to prevent a potentially awful situation."

The borough's entire state delegation supports the legislation, including state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), who voted for it and called Aniya's death a "horrible, horrible tragedy."

"This reinforces our concern about why State Island is different from the four other boroughs," said Ms. Savino. "It's not just about money."

Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2011, 6:31 AM by Judy Randall