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Red-light stop means stop completely

Frank Saladino stands by the intersection of Union

Frank Saladino stands by the intersection of Union Turnpike and Lakeville Road where he got a ticket for making a right turn at the intersection. He wants a sign that explicitly tells drivers not to turn until they come to a complete stop. (Oct. 6, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Frank Saladino's experience leads us to ask:

When is a stop at a red light not a stop?

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Saladino's initial question to Watchdog wasn't about coming to a stop -- it was about making a right turn on red in New Hyde Park, something he had done on the presumption the turn was legal.

But that turn led to a $100 ticket that arrived in the mail. He was plenty confused.

Saladino, who lives in New Hyde Park, has made right turns on red before, with no problem. He knew that just minutes away, in Queens (and the rest of New York City), right turns on red are not permitted. And it made him wonder if the city's policy had suddenly extended into Nassau County.

Saladino made the turn from Lakeville Road on to Union Turnpike, an intersection that has no signs prohibiting right turns. But it does have a red-light camera.

As it turns out, one way to get such a ticket is by "making a right on Red but failing to make a complete stop," according to Nassau County's website.

Which leads us to ask: What, exactly, constitutes a complete stop?

Saladino said he had heard the magic number is 3 seconds.

But Nassau spokesman Christopher Mistron said state law doesn't contain any reference to 3 seconds -- or any other length of time. Rather, he said, a complete stop means "cessation of movement" -- and that's what the people who review the red-light camera recordings are looking for.

In other words: The magic number is 0 mph.

Saladino wants the county to post signs warning drivers that a full stop is necessary -- to give drivers "a fighting chance," he said. "Let us know . . . Put a sign there that says you can make a right turn after a full stop."

But Mistron said licensed drivers should know that a complete stop is necessary; he cited a section of the state's Vehicle and Traffic Law that says drivers "may cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn after stopping".

"The law doesn't require us to put a sign at every intersection saying you must come to a complete stop," he said. The only signs the law requires, he said, are those at intersections where right turns on red are prohibited.

Then how about a "Wait for turn signal" sign, Saladino asked? After all, there is a protected right-turn signal at the intersection.

But Mistron said drivers don't need to wait for the turn signal -- if they have stopped and the coast is clear. The dedicated right-on-red turn signal is there "to allow proper flow of traffic," he said.

So drivers, take heed: Those red-light cameras will take note if you don't stop -- really stop -- before turning. Thanks to Saladino, you've been warned.

Unsightly Bayport house


A house in our neighborhood has been vacant for some time. It appears someone is responsible for it, as the lawn is mowed a few times a year and in winter snow is removed from the sidewalk. But the house is extremely dilapidated, with boarded windows and a shredded tarp on the roof. The Town of Islip has been notified. It's a real community eyesore.

-- Cheryl Bishop, Bayport


The house is indeed unsightly, Mrs. Bishop -- but Islip Town says it doesn't meet the town's requirements to be declared blighted.

The town uses a point system to grade a property's condition: If the flaws amount to 100 points, the town can slap a $2,500 fee plus maintenance costs on the tax bill. But the problems at the house in question scored only 60 points -- for unfinished construction on the roof and other offenses -- when a code enforcement officer paid a visit in the summer.

The officer, who examined the property in response to concerns from the Bayport Civic Association, found the home was "sufficiently secure," meaning the doors and windows were boarded or locked to deter illegal activity. Grass was no higher than 10 inches, the state standard.

This house is a "failed flip" that has been vacant since 2008, the town's code enforcement office said.

Islip residents with code enforcement concerns should call 631-224-5547.


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