Nassau Democrat Campaigns Against Speed Cams in Bid for Senate Seat

Adam Haber, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican State Senator Jack Martins in Nassau County, is out with a new attack ad blasting his opponent for supporting speed cameras.

In April, the Senate voted 49-11 for a bill that expanded New York City’s speed cam program and brought automated speeding enforcement to Long Island for the first time. As in NYC, the law restricts Nassau County’s cameras to streets with school entrances nearby, during specific daytime hours. Drivers can get tickets only if they are going more than 10 mph over the limit.

The Nassau County program got off to a rocky start soon after its August launch, incorrectly issuing tickets near six schools during hours when the cameras should have been shut off. County Executive Ed Mangano later voided all of the county’s speed cam tickets, valid or not, and the program restarted in September near 77 schools [PDF].

State Senate candidate Adam Haber is going for the road rage vote. Image: Haber for NY/Facebook
State Senate candidate Adam Haber is going for the road rage vote. Image: Haber for NY/Facebook

With its latest ad and press release, the Haber campaign is betting that Nassau residents think drivers speeding through school zones shouldn’t get tickets. The campaign has purchased what it calls a “significant” amount of air time for the anti-speed cam advertisement, which will run until election day.

Haber has sent out mailers and lawn signs against the speed cameras. The Senate district, covering Great Neck, Port Washington, Floral Park, Mineola, and Hicksville, borders much of eastern Queens. Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms reported seeing the signs on streets just over the city line in Little Neck yesterday.

“Adam Haber supports measures that would actually increase safety in school zones, like speed bumps, warning signs and signs that tell drivers their current speed,” said campaign spokesperson Jacob Tugendrajch. “However, Haber believes that Nassau County’s speed camera program is an effort designed to raise revenue, merely disguised as an effort to keep our children safe. Adam Haber will continue to fight against this backdoor tax and look for real solutions to promote traffic safety near our schools.”

The Martins campaign responded. “He puts our children’s safety in harm’s way for political purposes,” campaign spokesperson Chris Schneider told Newsday. “This was a bi-partisan bill cosponsored by Haber’s fellow Democrats.”

Martins joined the majority of Senate Republicans to vote for speed cameras. Of the eleven votes against the bill, three came from Long Island Republicans. Other than Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn senator who caucuses with the GOP, not a single registered Democrat voted against the bill.

I asked Tugendrajch, who also works for Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair and speed camera supporter Michael Gianaris, if an automated enforcement program could ever be designed in a way that Haber would support. I haven’t received a reply.

Haber is trailing Martins in the polls, though what had been a 25-point gap has narrowed to 15 points in a recent survey.

StreetsPAC, which has made three endorsements on Long Island so far this election season, was not impressed with Haber’s ad. “While StreetsPAC hasn’t made an endorsement in this race, we have not endorsed any candidate anywhere who opposes the use of speed cameras,” said StreetsPAC treasurer Eric McClure. “The simple fact of the matter is that speed cameras save lives, and there’s an amazingly simple trick for avoiding a ticket from a speed camera: Don’t drive more than ten miles per hour over the speed limit in school zones during school hours.”

  • And here are some signs I saw while riding in Little Neck. Ugh. Rooting for Martins.

  • Jesse

    That picture is great. It shows how both sides are pretty much in agreement that automated enforcement opponents are just spoiled children throwing tantrums and yet the opponents are comfortable enough with that characterization that they apply it to themselves. It’s Jedi Master level of entitlement: where you are entitled even to that original sense of entitlement.

  • M to the I

    Maybe people should put up counter lawn signs saying “Adam Haber wants school kids to die.” or “Adam Haber, protecting speeders rights to kill and maim children.” This politician is no engineer. He doesn’t know if speed bumps can be placed on streets near these schools. And, there is already signage warning drivers to slow down near schools, big signs that say “School…Speed Limit X”. Why do we have to have 10 signs on every street to get drivers to obey laws?! But maybe he is right, maybe we should put up signs like this, “You are 50′ from a speed camera…You are 25′ from a speed camera…You have passed the speed camera, you may now speed!”

  • Amazingly Haber’s Facebook page (link via that photo above) has a lot of intelligent comments supporting the cameras. I am pleasantly surprised!

  • JoshNY

    It’s Nassau County. You expected anything better?

  • Adamlaw

    What’s the basis for the claim that the tickets are bogus? Or is it just valley girl speak, like, dude, I got a ticket for speeding and it was totally bogus man . . . Also, I like how the ad firm utilizes images of cars stuck in traffic to inflame voters ire when talking about bogus speeding tickets

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Maybe people should put up counter lawn signs saying “Adam Haber wants school kids to die.”

    There is a reason why he didn’t put up these ads a month ago. Arriving on Election Day, assuming he’s the usual political type, an ad that claims his opponent is a child molester.

    Still, this scumbaggery is for me balanced by the fact that his opponent is an incumbent. I NEVER vote for incumbent members of the NY State legislature, unless they just got there two years ago and can show some “no” votes.

  • Hilda

    DOT has a pretty succinct picture today for supporting any measure that reduces speeding. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152482541612887&substory_index=0&id=166279802886

    Appropriate speed in school zones. It is quickly going the way of “Thank you”, eye contact; and phone calls; nostalgic fuss that just slows us down.

  • Entitled

    The claim is that the cameras weren’t supposed to be on outside of school hours. So these people were, in fact, breaking the law! It’s just that under the provision of the Albany bill, the cameras weren’t supposed to catch them in the act. End result: “Waaahhhh! Unfair!!!!!”

  • Brad Aaron

    I’ve seen that photo before. I think Steven Matteo or some other SI pol used it.

    The “road rage vote” is right.

  • Komanoff
  • NYer

    And guess who’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars tring to keep Republicans in control of the State Senate?

    Related Equities, citibike’s new owners! Reason enough to cancel your subscription?

  • dporpentine

    Do you have a link for that?

  • Mike

    That would make a lot more sense if it wasn’t the Democrat who wants to get rid of the speed cameras.

  • Trillbit

    Haber: A vote for me is a vote for road rage! That’d be a fun slogan!!

  • Errr, we are talking about a Democrat against speed cameras here. Not sure what this comment means?

  • Emmily_Litella

    I canceled my registration to a major political party. I suggest you all do the same. Suppose we had an election and nobody showed up at all? This sickening negative ad is just more proof that our political system is broken.

  • Rabi

    If you think you shouldn’t be ticketed for driving MORE THAN TEN MILES FASTER than the speed limit, you’re a psychopath.

  • Joe R.

    This isn’t even that restrictive. The current implementation basically tells drivers not to go more then 10 mph over the speed limit near schools when school is in session. You’re right, anyone who has a problem with that is a psychopath.

  • lop

    A minority of the tickets over the summer were illegitimate(<10k) in that they were given outside of hours when the law authorized the cameras to be active, so they canceled all of them(40k). People were whining and the Nassau executive gave in. Some of the loudest complainers were upset because they didn't know there was summer school.

    But some of those tickets were pretty bad. Schools often have lower speed limits nearby, in some cases more than 10 mph less than elsewhere on the road, and only in effect during school hours. So a share of those 10k tickets were given to people who weren't actually speeding, and some were for driving 31 in a 30, not just that they were given tickets for speeding 10+ over the limit when the camera was supposed to be off.

  • Michael Weinstock

    Mr. Komanoff,

    You should justifiably be proud of your mother and the precedent she set by running for the Board of Supervisors and winning. Especially in her day, I am sure she needed to work twice as hard as the men around her. Because of women like your mother, we now have a woman as a member of congress and a woman District Attorney.

    I strongly suspect that you wrote/published your letter about the cameras without learning about both sides of the issue; or even taking a little bit of time to actually look at one of the cameras. As I learned when I was a prosecutor in the sex crimes and domestic violence bureau, preparing a case for trial is the least exciting part of the job, but surely the most important. There is no substitute for a site visit.

    The camera closest to my home is located on the service road on the Long Island Expressway and it sends out expensive tickets to motorists to driving at 41 mph, because -technically- a school is located next to the Expressway. If you know the area, of course, you know that children do not walk cross the Long Island Expressway.

    According to the Great Neck Superintendent of Schools “Choosing to place the school zone camera on the Long Island Expressway Service Road makes its purpose even more transparent. This is about revenue for the county, pure and simple,” said Great Neck Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan. He further stated that “There are “virtually no pedestrians at all [by Great Neck South.]” (See Great Neck Official Oppose Cameras by South, “The Island Now” October 2, 2014 By Anthony O’Reilly found at: http://www.theislandnow.com/great_neck/news/gn-officials-oppose-camera-by-south/article_b01cf6e0-4a58-11e4-b797-d30666394509.html)

    Please respond to this letter and state whether you studied both sides of the issue and conducted a site visit before you published your strongly worded letter. Your mother, the Honorable Hannah Komanoff, would be undeniably be proud that you are carrying on her tradition of public service. She would be even more proud to know that her son is doing his homework.

    Lastly, I think Senator Martins is a fine man and good senator. I have reviewed this issue and found that it is disingenuous that he tells voters that he has “lowered taxes” when clearly this revenue generation is nothing more than a creative backdoor tax. I am voting for Adam Haber.

    Michael Weinstock

  • qrt145

    If only actual taxes could be avoided by following the law…

  • Daniel

    Michael, you do realize that the streets surrounding highway entrances and exits are some of the most dangerous? While I would much prefer that the cameras gave out license points instead of minuscule fines, the current extremely weak program does have the advantage of identifying the type of psychopath who defends speeding where it is comparable to shooting a machine gun at a merry-go-round filled with children. Going 10 mph above the speed limit in front of the school is a terrible mistake to be ashamed of, but attempting to defend it is reprehensible. [EDIT: fixed formatting]

  • Komanoff

    Michael —

    While I appreciate your generous words about my mother, I’m unshaken in my disgust over Adam Haber’s ad castigating Sen. Martins for helping pass the law allowing over 200 speed cameras in Nassau, Suffolk and NYC.

    Have you listened to the ad lately? “Money grab.” “Nassau’s failed speed camera program.” “Cost drivers $2.4 million.” Nothing about protecting lives. Nothing about saving money by reducing crash frequency and severity. Nothing about the antidote to speed cam tickets: don’t drive 11 mph over the posted speed.

    You ridicule the placement of one camera on the L.I.E. Service Road. Whether you know it or not, cyclists use that road (myself included, several times a year), and occasionally pedestrians too. Still, if you or others disagree with its placement, then suggest a better spot — a step that neither of the school officials who criticized it has yet bothered to take, according to the news story you cited. But don’t throw out an entire program that took a decade of hard work to realize.

    Please step back and think about what Haber’s ad really supports: the “right” of motorists to be shielded from the risk of being found guilty of endangering others by breaking the law. I stand against that “right” and encourage you to do so as well.

  • Joe R.

    Isn’t the speed limit on the LIE service road 40 mph? If so, then the speed cam would be flagging motorists going 51 mph or over, not 41 mph. I normally don’t look at speed limit signs given the fact that I don’t drive, but I recall the LIE service road speed limit being 40 mph, at least from points further east then Main Street.

  • Michael Weinstock

    Mr. Komanoff- There is no question that these cameras are for generating revenue and not for the safety of the community. Police officers with experience and discretion are clearly in the best position to determine when a violation should be issued, not a machine.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, various studies indicate that the red-light cameras “[D]o little to reduce accidents – and in some cases may increase them” (See, Ashby Jones, “Number of Communities Using Red-Light Cameras Decline” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2014.) Seven states ban them altogether and several more states including Ohio and Florida have started the process of eliminating the cameras. (See Ibid at paragraph three, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures; see also Rueters, Bill Cotterell,”Florida Supreme Court Rules Against Red Light Cameras” June 15, 2014; Jeremy Pelzer, “Traffic Cameras’ Days May be Numbered Ohio Lawmakers Say”, The Plain Dealer, June 6, 2014). We have all seen people slam on the breaks because they fear an auto-ticket.

    Yes, I ride my bicycle in the area and I also drive my car in the area. The police cameras are a terrible replacement for experienced officers- but they are a great way to bring in money, that’s for sure. Are you aware that in addition to being dangerous, there cameras recently malfunctioned and the county was forced to return $2.4 million because the drivers did nothing wrong?

    The cameras also put a terrible strain on our extraordinary volunteer firefighters and EMT’s that drive their personal vehicles when responding.

    Every time a law is passed that takes discretion away from judges and/or police- the public gets pinched a little further. I intend to vote for Mr. Haber and encourage others to do the same.

  • Michael Weinstock

    I do not respond to name calling.

  • Komanoff

    The fact that your county exec campaigned for the speed cams as a revenue generator (in part) does not negate the fact that they incentivize adherence to safer speeds. How you can justify defending drivers’ “right” to operate unsafely is beyond my comprehension. Your alternative — having officers target speeders — is patently unsafe on residential streets and is a non-starter besides, given budget constraints and police forces’ near-universal apathy toward crash prevention and defending pedestrians and cyclists. Indeed, their indifference is what motivated the public push for the speed cams.

    Hundreds of advocates including grieving families labored mightily to win the new law. Why not monitor it and work to improve it rather than whitewashing Haber’s shameless demonization of it? And you could raise the level of discourse — which I know you care about — if you didn’t conflate speed cams with red-light cams. Thanks.

  • Joe R.

    Speed cameras are a much better means to enforce speed limits than police, and provided the speed limit is set properly, they wouldn’t generate much revenue. That’s really the issue here-legislated artificially low speed limits which result in a majority of drivers feeling comfortable going over the speed limit, not speed cameras. If speed limits were set in accordance with traffic engineering principals, less than 1% of drivers would be going 10 mph over the speed limit even with no enforcement. In that case, the speed cameras would catch only those who were truly driving dangerously fast.

    If you want a cause, then campaign for the abolition of legislated speed limits, particularly on limited access highways. Once we do that, then the “revenue generator” argument for speed cams goes right out the window. Point of fact, the best, fairest way to enforce laws is automatically, so that everyone breaking the law gets caught every single time. I like this concept because it might encourage us to only have those laws which make sense, rather than have thousands of laws on the books which are seldom enforced, but which a cop can still use against citizens if they’re on a power trip.

  • Interceptor III

    “Police officers with experience and discretion are clearly in the best position to determine when a violation should be issued, not a machine.” Too bad the police don’t bother with any meaningful enforcement of speed limits. We’ve been forced to resort to automated enforcement. I’d much prefer that speeding drivers get $200 tickets and points. But the police aren’t doing that.

  • lop

    It goes down to 30 around the school during school hours. Back to 40 when you leave the scho zone. The William shine great neck south school has a flashing light to tell drivers when the lower speed limit is in effect too. This is going by street view. Haven’t drive there in a while, but from what I remember that curve makes it hard to see. Even if the kids aren’t on foot a lot of cars are turning out of the parking lot with poor visibility and kids inside, they depend on drivers not speeding to do so safely.

  • lop

    Less than 25% of the tickets from the summer were issued contrary to the law, and for an undetermined number of them the driver was still speeding.

    I.e. a road has a speed limit of 30, down to 20 during school hours, someone who got a ticket for going 35 mph was speeding even though the ticket was issued wrongly because school wasn’t in session. The other 75% the drivers were completely in the wrong in that the drivers were going 10+ over the limit during school hours. That the driver may not have known about summer school is no excuse.

  • Michael Weinstock

    The police cameras that generate revenue penalties at school zones and the cameras at stop lights that send out tickets are two sides of the same coin. They were both laws that were passed as book-door taxes and both laws remove the discretion of police officers, who have the years of experience to know a person deliberately violating the law in comparison to a safe driver. I do not share your contempt of the city and county police officers. The vast majority are dedicated professionals and I do not like to see their discretion replaced by machines.

  • Why do people think the spectre of “generating revenue” is some kind of potent argument against speeding tickets? For one thing, how else will we pay for enforcement, plus the actual damage done by speeding? For another thing, it’s easy to avoid.

  • Ser Ponce

    “who have the years of experience to know a person deliberately violating the law in comparison to a safe driver”

    And ticket neither.