Baldwinites mixed on county executive's speed camera proposal

A safety boost or cash grab?


Baldwinites had mixed reactions to a plan that could see the return of speed cameras to Nassau County school districts that request them. County Executive Laura Curran proposed an opt-in program for the cameras shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order restoring New York City’s school speed camera program, which had expired because of inaction by state lawmakers.

Supporters of the plan said it would help increase safety near schools. “People think they’re entitled to speed,” Baldwinite Gary Farkash said, “and these will help to make these entitled people a bit more civilized.”

Kimberly Leibrock Cascio said that cameras are not needed near most Baldwin schools because “there’s really no place to speed there,” but she added that Grand Avenue, near Baldwin High School, could use one.

“A lot of parents say they don’t even go on Grand anymore because it’s like a speedway,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing to do, because it keeps people’s brains aware and makes them pay more attention.”

But others called the idea a cash grab for the county and claimed it would do little to decrease speeding. “If it’s about safety, there are many ways to immediately reduce the speeds near every school,” Jason Verity said. Instead of putting up cameras, he said, the county should build speed bumps near schools on smaller streets and grooved pavement on larger roads like Grand Avenue and Merrick Road.

Pete Chiovitt said that cameras near schools would only make drivers find other streets to speed on. “Love the increased chances of getting T-boned backing out of my driveway,” he commented on Facebook.

Curran’s opt-in proposal would require the approval of state and county lawmakers. Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin Union Free School District, could not be reached for comment.

The county instituted school speed cameras in 2014, but the short-lived program was riddled with issues. There were no warnings of where the cameras were, and hundreds of drivers going 10 or more miles per hour above the posted speed limit were issued $80 tickets at times when school was not in session, including some before the start of the school year.

The County Legislature unanimously voted to end the program, which had generated about $30 million in revenue, in December 2014. Baldwin had one speed camera on Merrick Road near the St. Christopher School, and one was reportedly in the works for Baldwin High School before the county ended the program.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, a Freeport Democrat, said that while he thinks Curran’s plan deserves consideration, he would need more information before committing to a vote. Specifically, he said, he wants to know how school districts would opt into the program. “Is this something that could happen administratively, or is this something where the public could have open comment on?” he asked. “I think it’s better to get community input . . . some of the greatest community involvement happens on the school district level.”

Abrahams said he would also support districts asking residents to vote on such a proposal via a referendum. “I would want to go the extra mile to make sure this is something the community or school district actually embraces,” he said.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, a Republican from New Hyde Park, did not return a call for comment by press time.

State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford, did not say whether he would support a state bill to authorize speed cameras in Nassau County, but he said he believed protecting children must be a top priority for all levels of government. “I will work with my colleagues, in local and state government and from all political parties, to determine the best way to balance safety and clearly mark any speed cameras that are implemented,” Brooks wrote in an email.

State Assemblyman Brian Curran, a Republican from Lynbrook, said that while his vote on a potential bill would depend on how the legislation were crafted, he was mostly against the idea and called it a disguised revenue enhancer. “I’m all for whatever we have to do around schools to make sure our schoolchildren are safe,” he said, “but a system of speed cameras, I believe, exists only to enhance the revenue for the county.”