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Brightwaters Village speed limit update may still be illegal, expert says

The board voted to change speed limits to 30-mph on some streets after previously violating state law by passing a 25-mph limit villagewide as part of a safety effort.

Officials in Brightwaters are taking another look at

Officials in Brightwaters are taking another look at speed limits, seen on Tuesday in the village. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The Brightwaters Village Board changed speed limits again Monday night after discovering that its villagewide 25-mph limit was illegal — but that change may not fully comply with state law either, an expert said.

The board voted to restore several streets to a 30-mph speed limit, leaving the rest of the village with a 25-mph limit. 

The board had unintentionally violated state vehicle and traffic law by passing a 25-mph limit villagewide in September as part of an effort to improve safety in the 1-square-mile community, officials said. 

State law prohibits area-wide speed limits of less than 30 mph in villages and cities, except in Long Beach. 

But the village board would have needed to fix the issue and set 25-mph limits another way, an expert said.

The law permits villages and cities to have sections with 25-mph speed limits, said David Orr, director of the Cornell Local Roads Program at Cornell University, which provides training and technical assistance to New York’s local highway and public works officials. But the board would “have to pass a rule or regulation for every single segment of highway they’d want to have a lower speed limit,” Orr said.

Village Attorney Charles J. Casolaro said that “my understanding is what we did was legal” by leaving designated roads with 25-mph limits. 

“There's some ambiguity in the law,” Casolaro said, adding he will review it again to be “prudent.”

Mayor John Valdini said officials are “trying to rectify the situation,” which he called a “learning experience.”

“We hope to correct it and move forward,” Valdini said Tuesday. “We just have to work out the paperwork.”

Officials said they realized their initial error after a resident of West Bay Shore posted about the change on Facebook, pointing out the discrepancy with state law. They reached out to the New York Conference of Mayors, which informed them that villages with populations of less than 50,000 people “cannot automatically change every block in one fell swoop,” Valdini said Brightwaters has about 3,300 residents.

The village board voted Monday to restore the 30-mph speed limit to 13 streets, which, according to officials, are either small or go into Bay Shore: Windsor Court, Oaks Court, Pine Drive, Phelps Drive, East Shore Road, Bay Way Avenue, Lagoon Court, Lagoon Drive, Marine Court, Neptune Court, Orchard Drive, West Shore Road and South Bay Court.

The village had spent $3,800 on new 25-mph signs, which were installed in December, Valdini said. Officials plan to replace five of them with the old 30-mph signs, Valdini said.

The speed limit error could make it difficult for police departments to enforce the new speed limits, and drivers could more easily get speeding tickets thrown out, Orr said, adding “Once they learn a ticket isn’t going to be enforced, they won’t issue them.” 

Suffolk Police said they were not aware of any issues regarding speeding tickets in Brightwaters.

New York City was able to drop to a default 25-mph speed limit through a state law passed in 2014.

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