Critics and backers of Suffolk’s red light camera program clashed Tuesday in a sometimes raucous and emotional public hearing into whether the controversial initiative should be suspended.
Camera opponents said county officials are only interested in generating ticket revenues and have ignored increases in accidents at many locations.
Other speakers supported the cameras as a safety measure, and several spoke about family members who died or severely injured by drivers who ran red lights.
Critics cited a recent report that found that 44 of 100 sites with cameras experienced an increase in accidents with injuries through the end of 2014 compared with the three-year period before the program was implemented in 2010.
They also argued that the $80 fines per violation are unduly harsh in cases in which drivers did not stop long enough in making a right turn on red.
“Your constituents are angry and every ticket for a right on red is a scam that has no bearing on safety,” said Merri Kanzenberg, of Commack.
Lorraine Rosseau said she has spent her life “following the rules,” but “I can’t afford a $6.50 calzone at my local pizzeria because I got an $80 ticket making a turn at a red light to get there. It’s a dishonest program.”
Dawn Nappi, of Holbrook, said she lost her 14-year-old daughter in a 2008 red-light accident, and that the driver who hit her spent four months in jail.
“Our family is serving an indefinite sentence,” Nappi said. “How do you put a dollar value on a human life? If it saves one life, it’s a job well done.”
“Is stopping one person from taking a life worth it?”? asked Al Ferrarri, a former New York City police officer and now a defensive driving teacher. “I’m not worried people having to pay a fine.”
Stephen Ruth, of Centereach, who is facing charges for tampering with red-light cameras, was called out of order during the hearing after he urged deputy sheriffs at the meeting to make citizen’s arrests of lawmakers who voted for the cameras.
At one point, presiding officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said, “This isn’t a game show, we have rules.”
Also Tuesday, lawmakers:
- Voted unanimously to pay an estimated $3.2 million to deputy sheriffs for deferred raises. Budget Director Connie Corso said the money will come from an account the county had set aside for collective bargaining issues and lower-than-budgeted oil and gas costs.
- Approved by a vote of 13-5 a $250,000 grant to Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue, Long Island’s only remaining duck farm, to build a storage shed for duck waste. Some lawmakers complained that the move amounted to a subsidy for a private business. County officials said storing the duck waste inside would decrease the amount of nitrogen leaching into the water.