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5 Nassau school districts debut speed cams Monday

A speed limit sign is seen along Stewart

A speed limit sign is seen along Stewart Avenue in Bethpage on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Credit: Jeremy Bales

Speed cameras will begin operating Monday in five new school districts, bringing Nassau County's total to 23 fixed and mobile camera locations as it continues its rollout of the controversial new program.

John Marks, executive director of Nassau's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, said the cameras will come online methodically each week, after first ensuring that proper signage is in place and that necessary permits are obtained from towns and villages. Cameras are expected to be in place at all 56 school districts by the end of the year.

"We are trying to get it done correctly," Marks said.

The new fixed camera locations operating this week are at Island Trees Memorial Middle School in Levittown, Cantiague Elementary School in Jericho, Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School in Levittown, Harbor Hill School in Greenvale and West Hempstead High School.

In addition, mobile cameras will be placed outside Harold D. Fayette Elementary School in North Merrick, Plainedge Middle School in Plainedge and Oceanside Senior High School in Oceanside. Each of those three sites had mobile cameras operating in July and August.

That summer pilot program sparked numerous complaints from motorists who said they were not told the cameras were operating. Last month, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano dismissed 39,915 tickets carrying $2.4 million in fines generated during the summer months after some cameras malfunctioned or became operational prematurely, resulting in 9,807 citations issued in error.

Since only one camera is legally allowed to operate in a district at any given time, Nassau will not activate a fixed camera this week at Camp Avenue Elementary School in North Merrick or at Schwarting Elementary School in Plainedge. Nassau does not have a fixed camera in Oceanside and has moved a mobile camera to various schools in the district since the program began.

Meanwhile, a fixed camera at Our Lady of Mercy Elementary School in Hicksville will operate Monday through Wednesday, while a mobile camera will be used Thursday and Friday at Dutch Lane Elementary School in Hicksville.

The moves, Marks said, came after individual school districts asked for mobile cameras to be placed at the schools because of speeding and safety concerns. The state law authorizing the speed cameras allows the county to occasionally switch between mobile units and fixed cameras at different sites in a school district.

Mobile cameras that previously operated in Farmingdale, Hempstead, Malverne, Valley Stream, Glen Cove, Great Neck, Plainview-Old Bethpage and Port Washington will not be active this week. Marks said that in many cases, the mobile cameras were operating in those locations on a trial basis.

Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said alternating between fixed and mobile cameras in a district is unfair and confusing to motorists.

"For the life of me, I don't know which cameras are operating and which are not," said Jacobs, who, like all 19 county lawmakers, voted for the cameras. "It's creating confusion and uncertainty with the public. I just don't understand the thought process."

Marks said he had "no sympathy" for those concerns. "I don't believe it's necessary for people to follow the law only because a camera is there," he said. "The answer is to follow the speed limit in school zones."

The cameras generally operate from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., although times may vary slightly at some locations. Violators must pay $80 in fines and fees.

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