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Lawmakers question intersection safety, red-light camera tickets

Pat Halpin, at the intersection of Route 106

Pat Halpin, at the intersection of Route 106 and Northern Boulevard in East Norwich on Wednesday, holds seven tickets he received there. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau County legislator is asking the county to dismiss dozens of red-light tickets issued for infractions at an East Norwich intersection.

Nassau Legis. Joshua Lafazan of Woodbury said he has heard dozens of complaints in the past month from residents who say they received tickets for making a right turn on a red light at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Route 106.

Drivers are being ticketed after pulling up to the intersection and stopping past the white line in order to get a better view of oncoming traffic before making the right turn, Lafazan said.

Lafazan said the line is set so far back that residents are being penalized for trying to safely make a right turn. A spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said his office has heard similar complaints and has requested the state Department of Transportation investigate whether it is safe for drivers to safely maneuver on a red light at the intersection.

Many weren’t notified of the offense until more than a month later, so they continued to creep ahead of the line before turning, racking up multiple tickets.

The camera became operational in May, according to an administration official for the Nassau County executive’s office.

In a letter sent to Nassau County Traffic Safety Coordinator Christopher Mistron on Aug. 2, Lafazan, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, requested the county charge drivers for only one ticket and forgive tickets for subsequent offenses committed before the driver was notified of the first offense.

“Most of my constituents are not complaining about being ticketed once,” Lafazan said. “What’s an abomination is that residents are being slammed nine, 10, 11 times for something that they didn’t know was an error in the first place.”

Tickets are usually sent an average of between three and seven weeks from the date of the offense. Drivers can request a hearing if they believe they received the violation in error, according to an administration official at the county executive’s office.

“The county wants multiple red-light violators to improve their safe driving habits and stop going through red lights,” said county spokeswoman Karen Contino. “This location has a sign saying it is a photo-enforced location. Anyone issued repeat red-light tickets at the same location is free to appear at [Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency] with an explanation.”

Pat Halpin, 49, of Locust Valley, drives through the intersection nearly every day. He said he was issued seven red-light tickets, totaling $1,050 in fines, before he was notified of his first infraction.

Halpin’s first offense was on June 9 but he didn’t receive his ticket, carrying a fee of $150, until July 19, he said.

“My biggest frustration is the fact that it took them a month and 10 days to notify me,” Halpin said. “They’ve stated the purpose for the cameras is to make the roads safer. If so, they should let me know as soon as possible so I can start driving more safely.”

In 2014, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano dismissed $2.4 million in speed camera tickets given to motorists near schools. Mangano said the cameras malfunctioned and issued tickets on days when the schools were not in session.

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