Town of Huntington

Indian Hills Country Club. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

More than 60 residents voiced their opinions on the proposed Preserve at Indian Hills development in Fort Salonga at a Town of Huntington Planning Board public hearing Sept. 18 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement on the project. Critics pointed to environmental concerns and negative effects on property values, while supporters viewed the project as beneficial to the community.   

Tony Izzo of Fort Salonga, said the development would have lasting negative impacts on the community. 

“Mr. [Jim] Tsunis [of The Northwind Group] wants to increase the size of the clubhouse by 30 percent and staff by 40 percent to accommodate a large catering restaurant,” he said. “The condos would be incompatible with the character of the neighborhood, it would double the size of the neighborhood.”

Izzo said he bought his house with his wife in 1987 with the assurance that the zoning would be R-40, which allows for the building of 1-acre single family homes. 

“We expected to be living in suburbia, instead we are told to accept a certain lifestyle — I’m not going to accept that,” he said. “These condos will negatively affect property values. Protect the citizens of Fort Salonga, not the builder. This must be rejected.”

“We expected to be living in suburbia.”

—Tony Izzo

The Preserve at Indian Hills would be a 55-and-over clustered housing development. In addition to the 98 town houses, the project also would include a new fitness center with an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.  

William Berg of the Crab Meadow Watershed Advisory Committee brought up concerns about the impact the development could have on the watershed quality and surrounding wetlands. 

“This study [the Crab Meadow Watershed plan] has not been completed or adopted by the Town Board,” he said. “Under land use the report states that the watershed is built out of its own density. I urge the Planning Board to call for the completion of the Crab Meadow Watershed study and thorough analysis of the information before making any conclusions on the project.”

Similarly, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes the Indian Hills property. While most of the speakers opposed the development, a few residents were in favor of the project. William Muller, who is a member of the Indian Hills Country Club, said he was supportive of the Northwind project and pointed to the need for more senior living.  

“I have the belief that this plan will have less of an impact to the local community than the single-family alternative,” he said. “There is always a need for the 55-and-older community and this would provide a wonderful setting for that population.”

Other supporters mentioned the tax revenue school districts would be poised to receive from potential development and said the golf course and condos should be considered assets for the community.   

Barbara Duffy of Northport, had similar sentiments, stating she was supportive of the building of town houses. 

“Having lived near the 17th fairway for 40 years, I find it very exciting to see the possibility of protecting the golf course and making good use of the available open space,” she said. “As you all know condominiums are a dire need for the 55-and-over community.”

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said in an interview that he thought the hearing went well and hopes the Planning Board will listen to their concerns. 

“This development has been overwhelmingly opposed by residents,” Hayes said. “We continue to challenge them on the density issues … being too close to residents homes. There are still problematic environmental issues that were not really tackled by the developers [in the study].”

The town will be accepting public comments through Oct. 18 either online or letters can be mailed to Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

Following public comments, the next steps for the development would be a final environmental impact statement and a possible preliminary subdivision hearing that has yet to be scheduled. 

by -
0 276
The Town of Huntington is accepting applications for an affordable housing lottery. The deadline is October 13.

 Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci (R) is excited to announce that the Town of Huntington’s Community Development Agency is now accepting applications online, for nine two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouses eligible for an affordable housing lottery in Kensington Estates, the luxury gated 55 and older community located on Jericho Turnpike across from Oheka Castle in West Hills.

 The Town of Huntington, in cooperation with the Huntington Community Development Agency and Triangle Equities, encourages all eligible individuals and families who meet the age, income and asset guidelines to enter the lottery for the opportunity to purchase one of the affordable townhouses currently available for sale. Applicants must be able to qualify for a mortgage.

 “We wish to thank Triangle Equities for bringing dream home living to the Town of Huntington, adding to its already unparalleled landscape,” said Leah M. Jefferson, agency director. 

 Applications will be accepted through Sunday, Oct. 13, and lottery selection will be held in Room 114 at Huntington Town Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 5:30 p.m.

 This development is restricted to people who are 55 years of age or older. Applicants must meet the age requirement at the time of the lottery application. In instances where a married couple or domestic partners that are registered are applying, only one owner must be 55 years of age or older. The owner(s) must occupy the home as his or her main domicile.

 Priority will be given to applicants who are town residents or who are employed by a business or entity that maintains a verifiable physical location within the town, or nonresidents who have parents, children, grandchildren or grandparents who are town residents. 

 The nine affordable homes at Kensington Estates consist of five two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouses priced at $248,000 (80% AMI Maximum Income-eligible) and four two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouses priced at $372,000 (120% AMI Maximum Income-eligible):

• The Belmont, a two-bed, two-bath first-floor unit with a 1,045 sq. ft. living area, an 188 sq. ft. covered porch, a one-car garage and a 47 sq. ft. shared covered entry porch is priced at $248,000.

 • The Delmar, a two-bed, two-bath firstfloor unit with a 1,095 sq. ft. living area, a 70 sq. ft. covered patio, a one-car garage and a 47 sq. ft. shared covered entry porch is priced at $372,000.

•The Beverly, a two-bed, two-bath second-floor unit with a 1,665 sq. ft. living area, two balconies totaling 117 sq. ft. balcony space, a one-car garage, and a 47 sq. ft. shared covered entry porch is priced at $372,000.

 *The estimated annual real estate taxes are $6,600 for homes priced at $248,000 and $9,900 for the homes priced at $372,000. Estimated Monthly HOA Fees are between $379 and $599 depending on the unit. 

*The developer has an application pending to change the tax classification from townhouses to condominiums, which if approved, will result in a substantial decrease in the taxes. In the event that you submit an application for the lottery and the application to change the classification is denied, the lottery entry fee is nonrefundable, but you will be under no obligation to move forward to contract with the developer to purchase a unit if we reach your lottery number and you meet the criteria to purchase.

A nonrefundable application processing fee of $26.50 must be paid online with submission of the application. All applications must be submitted online.

Eligible applicants will appear in list form on Oct. 17 at http://www.huntingtonny.gov/kensingtonestates. 

The townhouses are expected to be move-in ready by spring 2020.

Questions regarding application guidelines can be directed to the Huntington Community Development Agency at 631-351-2884.

 

Cow Harbor Day is an annual, weekend-long festival that celebrates the history of the Village of Northport, which was once known as Great Cow Harbor. This year, the village turns 125 years old. As the legend goes, Great Cow Harbor got its name because many cows once grazed the fields along the water’s edge. The only bovines in sight the weekend of Sept. 21 were costumed residents and festival-goers.

The tradition coincides with the end of summer and typically attracts tens of thousands of people. This year’s glorious weather, if a little warm, seemed apropos for a farewell to the season. The events included a nationally ranked 10K run, a 2K fun run, a parade with marching bands and fire trucks, carnival rides, sidewalk sales, street vendors, live concerts in the bandstand and more. After Saturday’s race, the harbor glowed at dusk and into the evening with boats illuminated and decorated for the festival.  

By Heidi Sutton

The U.S. Postal Service celebrated the 32nd honoree in the Literary Arts stamp series, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), with a first day of issue stamp dedication and unveiling ceremony on Sept. 12.

The event was held at a most fitting venue, The Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site’s Interpretive Center in Huntington Station, which boasts the second largest Whitman collection in the world, only superceded by the Library of Congress. The farmhouse where Whitman was born sits on the property.

Thursday’s unveiling honored the 200th anniversary of the Long Island native’s birth.

Influenced by the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Whitman wrote over 400 poems including “Song of Myself,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and his 1855 masterpiece “Leaves of Grass.” 

In addition to avid stamp collectors, the event was attended by many elected officials including Assemblyman Andrew Raia, Sen. James Gaughran, Legislator Susan Berland, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Legislator Tom Donnelly, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson along with Executive Director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum Lance Reinheimer, Huntington historian Robert C. Hughes, Executive Director of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park Vincent A. Simeone, Deputy Regional Director of NYS Parks Brian X. Foley, Regional Director of NYS Parks George “Chip” Gorman and many employees of the U.S. Postal Service.

Michael Gargiulo, WNBC co-anchor of “Today in New York” served as master of ceremonies. “I’m a huge history fan, I’m a huge stamp fan and I’m thrilled to be here,” he said before introducing Cynthia L. Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association; Jeffrey S. Gould, who sits on the board of trustees of the association; and Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for welcoming remarks.

The official stamp dedication was led by Cara M. Greene, vice president and controller of the U.S. Postal Service, and Walt Whitman personator Darrel Blaine Ford treated the audience to a soul-stirring reading of “Song of the Open Road.”

“Walt Whitman’s message of equality, tolerance, and the idea that we are all of the natural world, not separate from it, drew international acclaim in the 19th century and rings just as true today,” said Kulleseid, who thanked Shor and the board of directors “for all you’ve done since the 1950s to preserve this site and to educate visitors about Whitman’s vision of what it truly means to be an American.”

“[Whitman] is considered by many as the father of modern American poetry. The key word here is modern because of the topics and themes he explored — freedom, human dignity and democracy — and his stylistic innovations that at times mimicked ordinary speech and the long cadences of biblical poetry. His work continues to resonate with us today,” said Greene before unveiling the 85-cent commemorative stamp, which is intended for domestic First-Class Mail weighing up to 3 ounces.

Designed by Greg Breeding, the stamp features a portrait of Whitman painted by Brooklyn artist Sam Weber based on a photograph of the poet taken by Frank Pearsall in 1869. It depicts Whitman in his 50s, with long white hair and a beard gazing out with his chin resting in his left hand. The light purple background with a hermit thrush siting on the branch of a lilac tree recalls “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d,” an elegy for President Abraham Lincoln written by Whitman soon after Lincoln‘s assassination on April 14, 1865. It appeared in the second edition of “Drum Taps,” a collection of poems mostly written during the Civil War.

“Why do we honor Walt Whitman? He has had a tremendous influence on poetry, he relaxed the poetic line, dispensing with rhyme and meter and opening the way to what we call ‘free verse.’ He was really the great poet of American democracy — his poems embraced people of all religions and races and social classes,” at a time of great nativism, said David S. Reynolds, author of “Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography.”

Although he witnessed much suffering during the Civil War and endured several strokes, Reynolds said Whitman “never surrendered his optimism … His poetry radiates this joyful spirit. It brims with his love of the beauty and miracles of everyday life … and lifts our spirits.”

by -
0 419
Aerial view of Indian Hills Golf Course, where developers want to build 98 townhouses.

A proposed development at Indian Hills Golf Course in Fort Salonga is once again drawing criticism and the ire of a community. A public hearing scheduled for Sept. 18 will open discussions on the environmental impact statement for the construction of 98 town houses. 

In August of 2018, the Town of Huntington’s planning board issued a positive declaration to the developers, Hauppauge-based Northwind Group. The environmental impact statement review is the next step of the approval process. 

The upcoming presentation will focus on how potential development would impact water quality of local watersheds, the area’s steep slopes, coastal erosion zones, traffic and other issues.

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said the proposed development is massive and will negatively impact local roadways and surrounding wetlands, among other things. 

“We’ve been opposed to the development, it’s not something the community wants,” he said.

The project, dubbed the Preserve at Indian Hills, is a 55-and-over clustered housing development. In addition to the 98 town houses, the project also includes a new fitness center with an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.  

Previously, the association asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes Indian Hills. It came after town officials released a draft of the Crab Meadow Watershed Plan, done by GEI Consultants. 

The study’s goal was developing a community-driven stewardship plan that highlights best practices in the future management of the watershed area, according to a March 2018 TBR News Media article. It also focused on evaluating the environmental conditions of the land around the Jerome A. Ambro Memorial Wetland Preserve in Fort Salonga.

“The study showed that the watershed area is built out to its zoned density, we believe there shouldn’t be close to 100 homes built there,” Hayes said. 

The proposed development has been a decisive topic in the Huntington community for close to three years. Over the years, the developers have tried to change zoning for the property from 1-acre single family to open space cluster district, in the hopes of building homes on the property. They also changed the initial plans from building 108 units to 98. 

“We expect public comment on our application which is permitted within our current zoning,”   Jim Tsunis, managing member of The Northwind Group said in a statement. “Our professionals will address all concerns during the hearing on Sept. 18 and the extended public comment period.”

The president of the association said they remain skeptical of the development and plan to attend the upcoming planning board hearing. 

“We will be there to challenge their findings and we’ll counter their points,” Hayes said. 

Residents can review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the town’s website under the Planning and Environment Department page: www.huntingtonny.gov/indian-hills-deis-july2019. 

After the public hearing, the town will be accepting public comments through Oct. 18 either online or letters can be mailed to: Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

Following public comments, the next steps for the development would be a final environmental impact statement and a possible preliminary subdivision hearing.

Lupinacci and Sorrentino discuss vandal issue at Sunshine Acres.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) denounced the painted anti-Semitic graffiti vandals left at Sunshine Acres Park on Townline Road in Commack over the holiday weekend and urged residents to report suspicious activity and instances of hate to the Town.

 “The swastika is a symbol meant to threaten and intimidate and this demonstration of hate will not be tolerated in the Town of Huntington,” said Lupinacci, who visited the park on Monday, Sept. 2 to be briefed by Director of General Services Andre Sorrentino, whose staff temporarily painted over the graffiti with green paint on a paved path over the Labor Day holiday weekend until they would be able to permanently seal coat the area.

 They were joined by Public Safety security guard Dan Froehlich, who was patrolling the trail in the park and informed the supervisor that he has personally broken up groups of young people loitering in the park.

“Our Department of Public Safety is ramping up foot patrols at the park and I urge our residents to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity in our parks to the Department of Public Safety and suspected instances of hate to the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force,” said Lupinacci.

The Department of Public Safety reported the hate crime to the Suffolk County Police Department, which is standard protocol. Suspicious or illegal activity in town parks can be reported to the Department of Public Safety to investigate at www.huntingtonny.gov/public-safety or the 24-hour emergency hotline, 631-351-3234.

The Security Division of the Department of Public Safety is responsible for the daily patrol of 77 town facilities, consisting of buildings, properties, beaches and parks, as well as railroad stations and surrounding parking facilities located within the town. The town’s Park Rangers are New York State Certified Peace Officers tasked with keeping the general public order and protecting town parks, beaches and other facilities.

Residents can report instances of hate or bias to the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force through their Department of Human Services liaison, Director Carmen Kasper at humanservices@huntingtonny.gov or at 631-351-3304.

File Photo

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) with the support of the Republican Caucus has requested a Certificate of Necessity (CN) from County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to reauthorize the red-light camera program in Suffolk County through a mandated referendum. 

“Let the public decide if this program is saving lives or costing the taxpayers their hard earned dollars,” said Trotta.

His fellow Republicans echoed this sentiment.

According to Trotta, a $250,000 study, prepared by L. K. McLean Associates, did not provide the data that the Suffolk County Legislature was seeking to thoroughly determine if the red-light camera program should be extended for another five years. In addition, the report noted that accidents increased 60 percent at red-light camera locations, yet the consultants argued that the program should continue. 

Republican legislators Tom Climi (R-Bay Shore), Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), Steven Flotteron (R-Bay Shore) and Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic Beach) support Trotta’s resolution to have a mandated referendum on the November ballot.

“This bill is a yes or no to sign the contract for renewal of the red-light cameras,” said Kennedy. “We have been told that we can work on issues once the contract is signed. We all know that all issues are defined upon contract signature, just look at the roughly 15 million we had to pay out when our County Executive decided to breach the signed contract at Ronkonkoma Rail Road Station for solar panels.”

The GOP Caucus leader Tom Climi has said that his seven-member caucus will vote unanimously to end the program. 

“The results speak for themselves: more than a thousand additional crashes at red-light camera intersections involving thousands of drivers, all put at risk of injury or worse, all subjected to vehicle repair costs and increased insurance rates, with no reduction in fatalities at these intersections,” Climi said. “Rather than taking photos and video at these intersections, pretending to make them safer, we should engineer these intersections to actually BE safer.” 

Trotta had encouraged the public to speak at the Sept. 4 meeting of the full Legislature  and to speak in support of his referendum. The meeting, which was held at the Williams Rogers Building, Legislative Auditorium, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, began at 9:30 a.m. and by 3:30 p.m. the issue had not yet come up for debate and residents were still waiting to speak for their allotted three minutes during the public portion. 

Trotta has encouraged anyone with questions to call him at 631-854-3900.

Democrat leaders were unavailable for comment before going to press. Bellone’s office did not respond to questions about the program.

The results of the Sept. 4 meeting were unavailable before press time.  By early evening, county legislators ultimately voted along party lines in a 11-7 vote to extend for five more years the red-light camera program. 

Sen. Gaughran, Assemblyman Stern and Highway Supervisor Orelli stand in front of debris cleared from June 30 storm that ravaged the town.

Following passage of two major bills to support local roadways, state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) joined the Town of Huntington Highway Superintendent Kevin Orelli at the Huntington Highway Department to emphasize the importance of improving conditions for Huntington’s highways and drivers. 

The first set of bills, S.4363 and A.6547, raises the limits on capital expenditures used for the repair and improvement of highways in the town from $400,000 to $1,000,000, bringing it in line with neighboring municipalities. The second set, S.5422 and A.1235, protects drivers by expanding the state’s liability for damages suffered by individuals due to defects in state highways.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but I have no money.”

— Kevin Orelli

Orelli stressed the fact that the capital expenditure bill is not about getting more money from the state, adding it instead addresses an archaic rule that prevents the Highway Department from spending more than $400,000 in one year on equipment spending. The town, he said in a telephone interview, has fallen behind and is badly in need of new equipment, which is funded by the town and taxpayers. 

“I thank the legislators for their work,” Orelli said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but I have no money.” The town allocated no monies for equipment in this year’s budget, he said.

“We don’t have the money we need to do the job properly. We can’t do what we need to do,” he said.

The department recently retired around five snowplows and has been using antiquated equipment to repair potholes, It lacks basic machinery such as a chip truck, pay loader and a brine truck. A new super sucker, which the town needs to clean out storm drains, the highway superintendent said, costs $408,000.  

The Highway Department, he said, has been the department that gets budget cuts. Over time, it’s gradually fallen behind. The department once employed 300 people, but now operates with a staff of 150, Orelli said. The highway building itself, he said, is old and has too low of a clearance for some trucks to park inside for repair work.

State lawmakers said that they understand the situation has been decades in the making. 

“These bills are important protections to allow safe and swift repair of our local roadways and to our motorists,” Gaughran said. “S.4363 modernizes an arcane statute and allows the town to respond quickly and appropriately during an emergency.” 

Stern agrees.

“The bill helps ensure that the Huntington highway superintendent has the resources necessary to maintain the quality and safety of our roadways by updating an arcane section of the law that had not been changed in more than 40 years,” Stern said in an email response.

The proposed budget increase brings Huntington in line with neighboring towns including Smithtown, which has a $800,000 limit and a sizably smaller population. Huntington’s population as of the 2010 census was 203,264 population. Smithtown’s as of 2010 was 117,801.

Once the governor signs the capital expenditure bill, the town will need to decide how to pay for upgrades. 

“It is encouraging to hear that the state passed the legislation, which the Town Board urged them to pass earlier this year, to support increased funding for highway equipment.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“It is my intention to meet with each town board member and ask for a substantial increase in the highway tax,” Orelli said. “As you are probably aware, it is difficult from a political perspective to raise taxes. Keeping this in mind, I am asking the Town Board to put this issue up for a voter referendum and let the taxpayers decide whether or not they want to increase their investment in our infrastructure.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said that he supports improvements. 

“It is encouraging to hear that the state passed the legislation, which the Town Board urged them to pass earlier this year, to support increased funding for highway equipment,” he said in an email request for comment. “I have always supported measures funding road rehabilitation and equipment funding for highway and road maintenance. The Town Board failed to approve equipment funding at our March meeting, but I sponsored the resolution funding the purchase of up to $400,000 in new highway equipment, and I sponsored and voted for up to $4,750,000 in road and traffic safety rehabilitation measures for 2019, which passed at the same meeting.”

Of those funds $3 million were used for paving, $1 million for drainage with the rest going toward sidewalks, pavement markings and traffic signal and traffic calming improvements.

State liability 

State roads are maintained separately and unrelated to the Town of Huntington’s roadway situation. The second set of legislator’s bills address the state-imposed liability limits for damages caused by poor state road conditions. 

Currently, motorists who suffer damages due to defects on local roads may pursue damages against the locality at any time during the year if the municipality had advance notice of the defect, according to Gaughran’s office. Yet, motorists who suffered damages due to defects in state roads can pursue damages against the state only if the incident occurred between May 1 and Nov. 15. If the incident occurs between Nov. 16 and April 30, motorists are out of luck. 

“S.5422 protects local motorists on state roadways, because drivers should not be stuck paying out-of-pocket for damages caused by a defect in a state highway that should have been repaired.”

The state has developed several systems to combat pothole problems. Motorists are encouraged to call 1-800-POTHOLE to report a pothole on Long Island’s state roads. The state reports that it receives hundreds of pothole reports through these phone calls, and through letters, emails and social media. New York uses 5,000 tons of asphalt for road repair on Long Island, according to New York DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri.

“The NY State Department of Transportation aggressively fills potholes throughout the year on more than 4,000 lane miles of state highways on Long Island,” Canzoneri said. “In the winter, we enlist additional crews, who work days, nights, and weekends.” 

But, the current arrangement lets the state off the hook during crucial months.

“The bill [A.1235] would provide a more effective way to hold New York State accountable to motorists with claims for unsafe road conditions that cause damage or injury,” Stern said. “It will help provide efficiency, responsiveness and accountability. These measures together will certainly help to protect our suburban quality of life.”

The governor’s office did not respond to repeated request for comment on the two bills. 

Adele Gordon poses with her cakes to celebrate a milestone occassion. Photo from Gaughran’s office

Huntington resident Adele Gordon celebrated her 100th birthday Aug. 23. Gordon was surrounded by friends and family as she blew out the candles on three extraordinary cakes to celebrate. NY State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) presented her with a Senate Proclamation on behalf of the Senate in recognition of the milestone occasion.

“Adele Gordon has been an active, exceptional community member in the Huntington community for decades,” Gaughran said. “It was my honor to join her for a celebration of 100 years of life and present her with a Proclamation in recognition of this milestone. Happy Birthday Adele!”

Public Works Committee to vote on extending the program Aug. 29

Suffolk County's Public Works Committee will vote Aug. 29 to decide the future of red-light camera program. TBR News Media file photo

The future of red-light cameras in Suffolk County remains up in the air. 

Legislators took issue with a report on the county’s red-light camera program in a meeting Aug. 26. It left some with more questions than answers regarding the divisive program as they prepare for a vote that could extend the program’s lifespan this Thursday, Aug. 29.

The countywide report carried out by Brookhaven-based L.K. McLean Associates found that the number of total crashes at 100 intersections with red-light cameras increased by nearly 60 percent from 2015 through 2017, compared to the time period (2007-09) before the cameras were installed beginning in 2010. The study found that at red-light intersections the number of crashes exceeded projections by 42 percent in total. 

Also, it found that a total of 17 fatal crashes occurred at red-light intersections for the duration of the report. Crashes that resulted in injuries decreased by nearly 11 percent, while the number of rear-end crashes increased by 46 percent. 

Officials from the consulting firm presented the report, which cost the county $250,000, to the county Legislature’s Public Works Committee Aug. 26 and disclosed they estimated the red-light program had generated more than $5 million in savings by reducing serious accidents. 

Despite those findings, legislators on the committee took issue with the results and said it left them with more questions than answers. 

One criticism levied was the way the consultants collected their data and how they determined if an accident was linked to an intersection with a red-light camera.

Raymond DiBiase, president and chief executive of L.K. McLean Associates, said they based their parameters from the New York State Department of Transportation. 

“The DOT in their crash data analysis and summaries identify an intersection crash as one that occurs within 10 meters or 33 feet from the center of the intersection,” he said. 

The consultants for the report expanded the crash area to within 200 feet of the center of the intersection, but some legislators questioned that decision and argued it could have captured crashes that fall in line with the definition of an intersection crash.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she was deeply disappointed in the report’s findings and criticized the firm with not looking at the link between distracted driving and crashes at red-light intersections. 

“What has not been mentioned at all during your report is distracted driving,” she said. “I have a traffic safety issue in my district; I have two of the most dangerous roads on Long Island —[routes] 25 and 25A.”

DiBiase responded by saying it is difficult to prove what exactly caused a crash from the data. Their goal was to make the study objective as possible and said distracted driving falls in a gray area as it is difficult to prove due to factors like lack of witnesses or evidence. 

“Distracted driving is why a lot of these accidents are happening,” Anker said. “We are here to try and understand how to make this program better. We know it’s saving lives, but we also know it’s also creating problems.”

The red-light program has generated more than $20 million in revenue annually for the county.

Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who has long been a severe critic of red-light cameras, said the program is a money grab and a tax on the taxpayers. He also criticized the consultants for only mentioning that fatal accidents at red-light camera intersections were lower than projected, and not also including data on fatal crashes that occurred at intersections without red-light cameras. 

“You can take these reports and throw them in the garbage can, it’s a joke — literally embarrassing,” Trotta said. “Everything here is jaded to make this program look good, it is a $32 million sham on the people of this county.”

Despite the lukewarm response to its report, the firm recommended continuing the red-light program, pointing to a decrease in crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities as well as a reduction in left-turn crashes.

The Public Works Committee is expected to vote Thursday, Aug. 29, on whether it will extend the countywide red-light camera program for another five years. If it were to pass it will go to the Legislature for a vote that could take place as soon as next Wednesday, Sept. 4.