Nassau County’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency no longer will disclose when new speed cameras come online or how many devices are operating at any given time, and instead has issued a list of 77 school zones where the cameras potentially can operate.
Since the program began Sept. 2, Nassau has provided Newsday with a list each week of school zones with active speed cameras, including those that are coming online.
Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said Friday that officials changed the policy because the list often needs to be revised based upon need in the district, making the information unreliable.
The policy change, Nevin said, was unrelated to revenue from fines and fees, which could fall if motorists know which sites are operating, or rise if they don’t. Camera revenue was not affected by disclosure of site locations, he said.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), a frequent critic of the program, said the lack of location information makes the program “unfair. At the very least, the public deserves to know where and when the cameras are operating.”
Jacobs, who, like all 19 Nassau County legislators voted for the cameras, wrote to Mangano this week urging him “stop the program cold, now, and reassess how to continue in a fair and equitable way.”
Nevin said Jacobs, “should focus more on warning motorists of the dangers of speeding than on running from her record of approving the use of cameras.”
Republican State Sen. Kemp Hannon, of R-Garden City, who voted to authorize the cameras, said this week that, “if I had to see that legislation again, I would make sure there were appropriate conditions and rules made evident.”
Hannon said the uneven rollout of the program “has caused a great deal of anxiety and resentment. The implementation has not been well done.”
A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she would reach out to the office of traffic agency executive John Marks for more information on the policy change.
An undisclosed number of sites have operational speed cameras while others are under consideration, Marks said. Last week, the county operated 28 speed cameras.
The county Friday released a list of 77 sites that are eligible for speed cameras. Since the state law authorizing the program allows Nassau to put only one camera in each of the county’s 56 school districts, at least 21 of those locations will not be active at any given time.
The list of possible camera sites is subject to change without notice and could be expanded to any of the county’s 434 public and private schools based upon need, Nevin said.
A total of 36 fixed cameras and 20 mobile cameras will be in place at all 56 school districts by year’s end, Nevin said.
The cameras, which generate tickets to motorists driving more than 10 mph over the school zone speed limit, generally operate from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., although times vary slightly at some locations. Violators must pay $80 in fines and fees.
The county expects to generate up to $30 million in annual revenue from the program.
County officials last week denied Newsday’s Freedom of Information Law request for data on the number of tickets issued to date, arguing that the traffic agency is exempt from FOIL because it is an arm of the District Court, a judicial body not covered by the law.
Nevin said the county’s Office of Management and Budget will release data on the program after reviewing the information.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, has disagreed with the county and said “the information is public under FOIL.” David Bookstaver, director of communications for the state court system, added that the traffic agency is “not a part of the court system.”Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce dependence on motor vehicles, said the cameras “have been proven to reduce speed and improve safety on roadways.”
Lynch pointed to statistics showing that a child has a 30 percent chance of surviving being struck by a car traveling 40 mph, and an 80 percent chance of surviving if the car is traveling 30 mph.
The group found that in 2012 — the most recent year for which data was available — 37 pedestrians were killed on Nassau streets and 14 were struck within a quarter mile of schools. Lynch said he was unable to determine how many of the victims were children.
[Robert Brodsky, Celeste Hadrick, Newsday]
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