Jericho Holds Speed Camera Forum

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A new wave of paranoia is sweeping through Nassau County these days, and if you ask a local resident to sum up its potential cause, you’re most likely going to hear a certain two words in response: “speed cameras.”

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Jericho’s Sharon Klein speaks against the cameras.
(Photos by Chris Boyle)

Implemented by Nassau County in select school districts this past summer and touted as a means of keeping children safe, new roadside speed zone cameras automatically issue a traffic ticket to any vehicle exceeding 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit during school hours. However, they courted controversy early on when the cameras began issuing $80 summonses to numerous motorists in August—a month when school is typically not in session—resulting in the county having to refund more than $2 million in ticket revenue.

While the speed cameras are not popular in general due to what many are claiming to be the haphazard way they have been introduced, one camera in particular has generated a great deal of heat amongst the populace in the neighborhood in which it’s installed—Cantiague Rock Road in front of Cantiague Elementary School. In fact, the camera situation has escalated to the point that a public forum was held on Oct. 30 to address the issues put forth by Jericho and West Birchwood locals.

Hosted in Cantiague Elementary’s auditorium by the Cantiague Rock Road Speed Zone Fairness Coalition, a group of concerned citizens who feel that the speed zone camera in their area is unjust, the forum saw group member Gary Strauss moderate a panel discussion in order to open a line of dialogue with public officials on the matter. Participating in the event was Hon. John Marks, the executive director of the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency; Assemblyman Charles Lavine; and Legislator Judy Jacobs.

Strauss acknowledged concerns amongst residents that the speed cameras were installed not to keep schoolchildren safe, but to generate revenue for the coffers of a cash-strapped Nassau County.

“Historically, Cantiague Rock Road is an extraordinarily safe school zone,” he said. “There are no known records of any auto accidents, injuries, or fatalities, and there is no crosswalk, so no one is crossing the street here. All Cantiague students are in a bus zone, which is set back from the roadway.”

Part of the uproar about the placement of the camera, Strauss said, is due to the fact that the area it covers utilizes unfair and unsatisfactory signage when entering Cantiague Rock Road; thus, drivers are not given fair notice of a strictly-enforced speed zone ahead.

Strauss stated that the goal of the coalition was two-fold; to have the camera on Cantiague Rock Road removed, and to have all fines it has issues waived by the county. Strauss stated that the coalition was not opposed to the concept of the cameras, provided they were actually set up in areas known to be legitimately dangerous to both drivers and pedestrians alike.

The majority of Strauss’ presentation was met by riotous applause by the attendees in the audience, many of who had raised their hands when asked who among them had been ticketed by the speed camera in question. John Marks, the executive director of the traffic agency, took exception to the overwhelmingly negative response of the community to the camera.

“I guess that you’re not opposed to speed limits, but when they are enforced, you are?” he said. “The fact is that these cameras have a 10mph buffer, so if a speed limit in a school zone is 25mph and you get a ticket, that means you were going at least 36mph. This new law was made to keep kids safe.”

Lavine, an early supporter of the bill that gave reality to the cameras, appeared that evening to reverse his previous stance, stating that had he known how poorly the program was going to be rolled out, he never would have voted to pass it into law.

“I have called for an end to this program until such time that it can be improved and implemented correctly,” he said. “I don’t feel that these cameras were designed to protect people’s lives, but to raise revenue for the county.”

Another supporter of the camera law, Jacobs, said key elements promised by the county that would have made the camera system more fair were removed from the project—after it had been approved by the legislature.

“Originally, we were told that there would be flashing lights and proper signage so that people would have plenty of warning about the camera,” she said. “Afterwards, we were told that, in order to afford the lights, the county would have to take out a $6 million bond. If that’s what the county has to do, I will support it, but how can you tell us that the bill will work one way and then change it after we vote on it? If I had known, I would have voted no.”

Both Levine and Jacobs stated that they have drafted letters of opposition to the speed zone cameras and sent them to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano for his consideration.

Robert Bennett, a Jericho resident who lives on one of the side streets that feed onto Cantiague Rock Road, is among the many locals that are complaining that there is not adequate signage on these streets warning motorists of the tightly-enforced speed zone ahead of them.

“We’ve got three people in my house—me, my mother, and my older brother—and combined, we’ve gotten 21 tickets so far,” he said. “I’m not crazy about speed cameras to begin with, and I think that the idea of having a camera where it is without proper notification is ridiculous…I think that it’s just a money grab on the part of the county.”

Sharon Klein of Jericho lives right behind Cantiague School. Despite their newly-adopted opposition to the speed zone camera system in its current form, Klein still took Lavine and Jacobs to task for approving it in the first place.

“I’m very dismayed that, as a taxpayer, you have my voice, and you voted for something that I had no say in, and was not presented to the taxpayers,” she said. “I have received multiple tickets since the camera was put in, and I feel that the whole thing is a sham. We, the community, want this camera gone…now.”

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