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Cornegy sounds school door alarm with proposed bill

Nayaba Arinde | 4/17/2014, 11:36 a.m.
Robert E. Cornegy Jr. Daniel Goodline photo

In the wake of the tragic death of Avonte Oquendo, City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. has proposed the Audible Alarm Bill, which would have school exits and entrances connected to a localized alarm system. Forty-six other elected officials also support the measure.

If a simple alarm could prevent a child from opening and walking out of an unguarded school exit, or intruders from walking in, what could the opposition possibly be?

Cornegy told the Amsterdam News, “The Department of Education said that it would be too expensive. We know it can be done for as little as $150 per alarm, but the system that the DOE favors would cost about $100,000.

“I’m sure Avonte’s family does not think that $1,000 or even $100,000 is too much to protect a child. They will never get to see their boy again, but the DOE are arguing cost?”

Last Thursday, on the steps of City Hall, Cornegy held a press conference and rally in support of the Audible Alarms Bill (Intro. 0131-2014), which he introduced in March.

The bill would require the DOE to install audible alarms on the exterior doors of public school buildings housing elementary and District 75 programs.

Citing at least five incidents this school year alone, Cornegy said, “Vulnerable young and disabled children have left city public school buildings through unalarmed doors, without the schools’ knowledge.”

The father of six is hyperconcerned about the issue, especially in the wake of the death of Avonte. The 14-year-old school boy was autistic and mute, and walked out of an unguarded door at his Queens school. His remains were found on the shore of the East River in January. The three-month search for Avonte gripped the city and prompted Cornegy to propose the bill.

“It would alarm vocally every single outer door of public school buildings housing children from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, and children in District 75 schools, which are special education schools. So, conceivably, had this been in place, Avonte would not have lost his life.”

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Alarm

Last week, Cornegy spoke with Avonte’s father, Daniel Oquendo. Impressed with Oquendo’s “graciousness to even take a call from me with the stress that has been put upon his family,” Cornegy said, “His willingness to try and make sure that no other family suffers like this is a testament to what type of man he is, because I don’t know that within my mourning period I would be able to entertain a call like that. Not only did he entertain it, but he had dialogue with me around the merits of the bill. The fact that he is not bitter, that he wants to protect other families from something like this, [is a] testimony [to] him as a dad.”

With his five public school children, from kindergarten to high school, including his son who has speech delay, in mind, Cornegy added, “My son is not autistic, but he has speech delays. We have a special responsibility to have a heightened sense of security around those who are most vulnerable amongst us.”