Nassau's red light program, which was due to expire Dec....

Nassau's red light program, which was due to expire Dec. 1, will be extended five years. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved a measure paving the way for a five-year extension of Nassau's red light camera program, which expires Dec. 1.

Lawmakers voted 11-6 to send a home rule message asking state legislators in Albany to renew the program through Dec. 1, 2029. The State Legislature must approve the extension for it to take effect.

Majority Republicans supported the measure, while Democrats opposed it. Two lawmakers were absent: Michael Giangregorio (R-Merrick) and Seth Koslow (D-Merrick).

Democratic county legislators said they could not support the program because of the steep fees the county charges, compared with other municipalities. Nassau assesses a $50 fine for red light camera violations, along with a $45 driver responsibility fee and a $55 public safety fee. Suffolk County only levies a $50 fine for red light camera violations.

The fees are a major recurring revenue source for Nassau.

Nassau, which has had the program since August 2009, expects to generate $48 million in total red light camera revenue this year, according to county Office of Legislative Budget Review.

State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), who is sponsoring the state legislation in his chamber, said he expects the State Legislature to act soon on the extension. A spokeswoman for the State Assembly did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The state legislative session ends June 6.

“For our purposes, I think there's a track record now where these cameras have provided an element of public safety. People are comfortable with them in the community,” Martins told Newsday after the county legislature's vote.

The county operates 308 cameras at 100 intersections, David Rich, executive director of the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency, told legislators Monday.

Rich said the cameras have helped deter speeding at intersections where collisions were frequent.

“Every year, since the inception of the program, we've seen a reduction in total crashes,” Rich said of the cameras' effect on safety, citing a 9% reduction in the program's first year and 21% in its second. A county spokesman did not offer more recent figures on Monday. 

The decline in collisions hasn't been entirely steady, however. From 2015 to 2016, for instance, total accidents at red light camera intersections in Nassau rose by 8.42%, Newsday has reported.

Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said the county should reexamine how it enforces the program.

“The county now is in a good financial situation,” DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) told Newsday last week. “This is something that absolutely is deeming a thorough investigation before we extend the red light camera program.” 

Presiding Officer Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) said in a statement: “Regionally, red light cameras have reduced the number of accidents and increased public safety at the intersections at which they have been deployed. They encourage more responsible driving. We hope New York State approves the continuation of the program.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, declined to comment through a spokesman.

The camera program has been a contentious issue under Democratic and Republican county administrations.

In 2021, when Democrat Laura Curran was county executive, majority Republicans on the county legislature proposed eliminating the $55 public safety fee. Democrats abstained from the vote and Curran vetoed the legislation, calling the public safety fee a key source of revenue for the county police department.

During the Nassau County executive's race in 2021, Blakeman, who defeated Curran, opposed the red light camera fees as “outrageously expensive.” On Facebook, he criticized Curran for vetoing a series of fee cuts. 

“It’s wrong! As County Executive, I’ll stop Curran’s reliance on your bank account and return the budget surplus to you by cutting taxes,” Blakeman posted in October 2021. Blakeman hasn't cut county property taxes since taking office in 2022.

That year, the Suffolk County Legislature eliminated a $30 administrative fee for red light camera tickets. A state Supreme Court Justice had struck down the fee in 2020, ruling it an unconstitutional tax.

Nassau red light camera revenue*

2023: $45.6 million

2022: $42.7 million

2021: $35.9 million

2020: $33.7 million

2019: $46.7 million

*Includes fines and fees

Source: Nassau Interim Finance Authority

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Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.