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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Brown: Fight over red-light camera in East Norwich isn't over

A line of motor vehicles heading east slowed to a stop at the intersection of routes 25A and 106 in East Norwich last week.

But not for long.

A driver toward the back hit the horn, and the line started moving again, as drivers, one by one, pulled up to the intersection before turning right on red and heading off, southbound toward Hicksville.

Aside from the lead car, not one vehicle came to a complete stop before making the turn — which is likely one reason Nassau decided to put a red-light camera at that location in May.

On Monday, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, defended placement of the camera — which has drawn criticism from motorists who have received multiple tickets at the location.

“What this is showing is that this is a very well-placed camera, and hopefully it will help deter people from running through red lights, whether making a right turn or going straight,” said spokesman Michael Martino.

For weeks, Nassau County lawmaker Joshua Lafazan of Woodbury, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has been inundated with complaints from constituents. He has been pressing the Curran administration to provide some relief for motorists who tripped the camera and didn't receive notifications until multiple weeks later.  

Lafazan pointed out that Curran’s predecessor, Republican Edward Mangano, forgave tickets — twice — during the rollout of the county’s short-lived program to install speed-zone cameras near schools.

In that case, state law required proper signage before cameras were operational.

For red-light cameras, Martino pointed out, there is no such requirement.

He said the county has responded to a letter from Lafazan which made the request for relief. Martino did not provide a copy, but judging from his comments, no relief will be forthcoming.

Even so, there has been major confusion about the intersection.

For one, multiple news reports stated or implied that the camera had been placed there by New York State, not Nassau County.

“This is a county camera at a state intersection,” Martino clarified Monday. “The county does not set the timing for the traffic light, but the county does oversee the camera operation.”

As for complaints about the weeks-long lag between the time a driver racks up a violation and the time notification of violation is mailed, Martino acknowledged the gap, saying it can take from four to seven weeks.

Potential violations are reviewed twice by the vendor Nassau uses to run the red-light camera program, and once by the county before violations, which cost $150, are sent out, he said.

And as for the intersection, where the stop line is located some 30 feet away from where a motorist would have a clear view of oncoming traffic -- because of a high median -- Martino said the program takes that into account as well.

“Every intersection has its own unique characteristics, which is why our ordinance allows for some discretion,” he said. “They realize that they have to make allowances in certain circumstances for the placement of the white line.”

At that particular East Norwich intersection, he said, motorists who come to a complete stop before making a right turn on red — even if it is after the white line — would not have received a violation.

But for Lafazan the fight is not over.

"Not even close," he said, adding that constituents have given him access to the the online videos showing their alleged violations.

"In so many of the videos I've watched, people came to a complete stop before the line. And now they're saying you can stop after the line. They were saying before that it was the state's responsibility, and now they're saying it's the county's. Let's get it straight."

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