Nassau Proposes Repealing Speed Cameras, Suffolk Nixes Plan Before its Debut

Nassau County speed school zone traffic cameras

Nassau County lawmakers announced Monday they plan to repeal their controversial school-zone speed camera program—the same day that Suffolk officials declared they had terminated their version before its planned launch next year.

Nassau County Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) plans to introduce legislation to repeal the unpopular program—an idea previously called for by the Democratic minority—according to a press release that was issued at the same time Suffolk lawmakers were holding a news conference announcing their plans to preemptively terminate their school-zone speed cameras.

“Given Suffolk’s actions, we believe the Nassau County Legislature will repeal the program as well,” said Brian Nevin, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, but without indicating whether Mangano would veto the repeal, if it passes the GOP-controlled legislature.

The plans came on the same day that Nassau cut the hours its speed cameras operate from 11 hours—7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on school days—down to the four hours when children are entering or leaving their schools: 7-9 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. Registered owners of vehicles caught on camera speeding more than 10 miles over the 20 mph school zone speed limits can expect $80 tickets mailed to their homes.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, told reporters during a news conference at his Hauppauge office that the decision to abort the speed cameras came after seeing issues with similar programs nationwide as well as the problem-plagued rollout in Nassau.

“We have made a determination that Suffolk County is not going to move forward with the school-zone camera program,” Bellone said while flanked by Democratic, Republican and minor-party legislators. “We’re going to pursue other alternatives for enhanced school-zone safety.”

He added that Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mt. Sinai) will chair a school zone safety commission that will issue a report on alternatives to the cameras and propose measures to the county legislature.

New York State this spring had authorized Nassau to install 56 speed cameras and Suffolk to install 66—one in each of Long Island’s school districts. Nassau lawmakers amended their red light camera contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to have ATS launch the speed cameras over the summer, but Mangano declared amnesty for the first 40,000 tickets issued following a faulty roll-out—nullifying the first $2.4 million in fines collected.

Between early September and Nov. 30, the county has generated nearly $17 million in fines, Newsday has reported, although the county has not confirmed that amount. Nevin has only said there has been a 70-percent decrease in the speed-camera tickets, but the administration declined to release specific figures.

Gonsalves plans to discuss her speed camera repeal proposal at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday. Although lawmakers have repeatedly insisted that the motivation for installing the speed cameras is public safety and not much-needed revenue, a repeal of the program in Nassau is expected to widen a multi-million dollar budget gap expected next year that already had forced Mangano to break his campaign promise not to raise property taxes.