Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 28 August 2009 00:00
The red light cameras are going back up in Massapequa.
At its Aug. 24 meeting, the village board of trustees voted on a resolution, one that would allow the cameras to return to the intersection of Merrick Road and Park Boulevard. Moreover, the BOT agreed to return all revenue from vehicle violations to Nassau County coffers.
There will be two red light cameras at the intersection, each going in opposite directions. Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna requested that the cameras go back up immediately. However, county officials said they wouldn’t go up until they receive a copy of the village resolution. And so, the cameras may be up by the time this issue has been released, or they will be up in the near future.
In all, the safety issue was the driving force behind the BOT vote. The village was willing to give revenue to the county, as long as the cameras went back up, something village officials hope will reduce traffic accidents at both the intersection and the village in general.
Last month, red light cameras started being installed at 50 of the most dangerous intersections in Nassau County. The purpose was to reduce traffic accidents, but also to collect fees to cut into budget deficits.
The Merrick Road and Park Boulevard intersection was one of those 50 most dangerous locations. The cameras first went up, and then were removed, causing a flurry of controversy between the village and the county.
When the cameras were removed, Mayor Altadonna and County Legislator Edward Mangano met at the intersection to denounce the county’s decision, one that they claimed was a matter of putting greed ahead of public safety.
“Soon after tagging the corner of Merrick Road and Park Boulevard among the most dangerous in Nassau, county officials ordered the cameras removed when it was discovered that the site is within the boundaries of the Village of Massapequa Park,” Mangano said. “This would require that any fees collected from violators be turned over to the village rather than feeding the county coffers. Clearly, this shows that county officials are less concerned about public safety and more interested in collecting the dollars expected to be generated from the red light camera program.”
Mayor Altadonna added that the decision compromised the safety of local drivers, including those of high school students.
“With the public high school only 200 feet away, where a cafeteria food service is not available to students who are forced to leave the campus to purchase lunch from nearby establishments, it makes safety sense to keep the red light cameras operating at this intersection,” he said. “Removing the cameras on top of the county’s recent curtailment in police coverage in the village shows that raising money is more important to county officials than the safety of our residents.”
However, a spokesman for the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board said the removal had nothing to do with the collection of fees. Instead, state law, the spokesman said, limits the validation of red light camera tickets to the county. Since the Merrick Road camera location is within village boundaries, the Village of Massapequa Park is not authorized to validate the tickets.
Effective Aug. 6, the following two intersections included in Phase I were equipped with red light cameras: Stewart Avenue and Central Avenue in Bethpage and Atlantic Avenue and Lawson Boulevard in Oceanside.
The remaining intersections in Phase 1 will be equipped with live red light cameras Sept. 1. Phase 2, the second group of 20 intersections, will be completed by Dec. 1 and the final 10 intersections will be completed by mid-January 2010.