Pols Stop Speed Cameras


Jericho and Syosset residents who opposed school zone speed cameras are doing victory laps after Nassau County legislators voted unanimously on Dec. 15 to put the brakes on the controversial program.

Residents said speed zone signage in Jericho was insufficient.

Residents of Jericho’s West Birchwood development in particular were elated with the vote to repeal the program. Many felt a speed camera at Cantiague Elementary School on Cantiague Rock Road was unfairly issuing tickets without proper signage. Jericho’s Ellen Meister said the repeal left her wondering how County Executive Ed Mangano and other elected officials thought they could ever get away with what she called an “underhanded money-grab.”

“Didn’t they ever stop to think how resentful their constituents would be?” she said. “In a political environment where it’s so easy to feel powerless and disillusioned, it’s inspiring to know that citizens can take action and make a real difference. I’m so proud of my friends and neighbors for standing up for what they know is right.”

The cameras, which were introduced this past August, issue an automatic $80 traffic ticket (plus additional fees) to any vehicle exceeding the posted limit within a 10 mph buffer, during school hours. According to officials, more than 400,000 tickets were issued since September, garnering $32 million in revenue for the county. Of the tickets issued, 60 percent were for speeds 1 to 5 mph over the violation threshold, while 27 percent were issued from 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., when students were most likely to be walking to or from school—both points leading residents to believe the cameras were strictly for the cash.

However, Hon. John Marks, executive director of the Nassau County Traffic & Parking Violations Agency, said the program’s intention was always safety first.

“I think personally that it was a good program,” he said. “Speeding in school zones is at epidemic proportions. This program, like it or not, helped people slow down. I hope now that [the program] is no more, people don’t start to think the mechanical police officer isn’t watching so they can go back to old habits. There was a need for these cameras. It would be great if people complied with the law and there was no need for speed cameras. But that’s not the case.”

Marks, who served six years as a Nassau County District Court judge and seven years as a Nassau County Family Court judge, said that with the cameras, the county was merely enforcing laws that were already in place.

“The cameras were there to enhance the safety of children and other pedestrians,” he said.

But according to Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York, the vote to remove the cameras is a “tacit admission that the program was a money-grab from the start.”

“Few things are more important than school zone safety, and those who drive recklessly deserve a penalty, but Nassau penalized safe drivers to fill budget gaps,” he said. “When there is no apparent connection between enforcement and traffic safety, the public loses trust in its government.”

Marks said the decision to repeal was one the legislature made based on information and public response, not a guilty conscience.

“The legislature made the best possible decision with the information they had,” he said. “I’ve been a judge for a long time and I know that every decision I made did not turn out the way I envisioned it but it was made based on the best available information at that time.”

Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs said that the program was flawed from the beginning, even though representatives from both state and county, from both parties, voted for it.

“It was presented as a school safety issue,” she said. “At the county level, we insisted before we voted that there would be proper signage and flashing beacon lights, as well as prior warnings to residents that the program was being initiated. We were assured by the administration that all of these measures would be put in place, but, unfortunately, this was not the case.”

Poor signage was the main complaint by residents near Cantiague Rock Road in Jericho, where West Birchwood resident Sharon Klein said the signage on that particular stretch near Cantiague Elementary School was so bad she amassed eight speeding violations at $80 a pop.

“When we exit West Birchwood there are no signs,” she said. “You would have no idea there is a camera there.”

And though she is happy the speed cameras are scrapped, Klein said it is not a true victory until all tickets issued through the ill-fated program are forgiven and all drivers are reimbursed for paid violations.

“They’re not fixed until everyone who paid for speed camera violations is reimbursed,” she said. “Then, and only then, are they fixed.”

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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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