Malverne, West Hempstead residents say no to county executive’s speed-camera plan


On social media, Malverne and West Hempstead residents reacted negatively to a plan that could return speed cameras to Nassau County school districts that request them. In August, 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.

Residents from both communities called the idea a cash grab for the county and claimed it would do little to decrease speeding. “[It’s] just a money maker for the county,” Barbara Schreck, of West Hempstead, said on Facebook . “Has nothing to do with the safety of the kids.” Instead of putting up cameras, she said, the county should post more crossing guards at the schools.

West Hempstead resident Kathleen Denyse Andree said that speed cameras do not ensure safety, and “they do not stop idiots from making U-turns in front of the schools, or stop kids and their parents from crossing the street in the middle of the block instead of at the lights where the crosswalks are.”

Eric Harlacher, of West Hempstead, said that if the cameras were more accurate, they would be a good idea. “However,” he said, “they’re known for giving lots of false positives, which waste resources and time when people have to go fight falsely written tickets.”

West Hempstead native Mike Dolan said that while he doesn’t like the idea of speed cameras, he would support them in school zones. “Crossing guards do not have the authority to ticket or stop speeders in school areas,” he said. “This does.”

Malvernite Frank Kanter said that speed cameras only lead to accidents, because they cause people to panic in these zones. In addition, he said, many people — like him — would turn down side streets to avoid cameras. “What’s next? Making roads all one way to push people into these zones?” Kanter said. “Let humans make ticket decisions, not machines.”

The specifics of Curran’s opt-in proposal, which would require the approval of state and county lawmakers, were not available at press time. Neither Dr. James Hunderfund nor Daniel Rehman, the superintendents of the Malverne and West Hempstead school districts, respectively, could be reached for comment.

The county instituted school-zone speed cameras in 2014, but the short-lived program had problems. 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.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, a Freeport Democrat, said that while he thought Curran’s plan deserved consideration, he would need more information before committing to a vote. Specifically, Abrahams said, he wanted 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.

The Legislature’s presiding officer, Richard Nicolello, a Republican from New Hyde Park, had not returned a call requesting comment by press time.

State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford, did not say whether he would support a state bill authorizing speed cameras in the 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.

Assemblyman Brian Curran, a Republican from Lynbrook, said that while his vote on a potential bill would depend on how the legislation was 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.”