Gov. Hochul has struck down a bill that would have prohibited new school construction within 500 feet of highways to reduce student exposure to harmful car exhaust — delivering a win to the Adams administration, which had pushed back against it.
“I am fully in support of the laudable goal of this legislation, which is to reduce exposure to vehicle exhaust,” Hochul wrote alongside the veto. “Unfortunately, this bill as drafted is overly restrictive and would considerably limit educational options for students in urban areas.”
While vetoing the bill, Hochul wrote that she supported its goals but had concerns about implementing it in the Big Apple, where she said construction would be “virtually stopped” in some neighborhoods that need it, lead to longer commutes and hinder compliance with new class-size caps of 25 students or fewer.
“Given the current space challenges facing New York City schools and the need for future space to allow for the smaller class sizes required by legislation I signed earlier this year, I cannot support that result,” the governor said.
The legislation aimed to undo longstanding injustices that leave students of color and kids from low-income families disproportionately exposed to pollutants. It also offered waivers for dense school districts like the city, where space is in short supply.
“The simple fact is this: students and staff should not be constantly exposed to harmful toxins, noise pollution, and other hazards from high-speed traffic as they go about their days,” said state Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) in a statement.
May, who sponsored the legislation, said she’s open to discuss concerns in NYC and vowed to reintroduce it in the coming weeks — calling it “a matter of basic justice and decency.”
“The Adams administration appreciates Gov. Hochul for recognizing the importance of building more schools and the work that we do to protect students from environmental hazards,” said Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the mayor.