In the recent debate about prohibiting portable basketball hoops on city streets, I have heard people describe the city’s basketball courts using words such as “deplorable” and “unsafe.” After taking a look at the various parks in the area that have basketball hoops, I can only come to the conclusion that the folks making these claims haven’t actually visited these places themselves, because the characterization is not accurate for most of the parks by any means.
The two best basketball facilities in the city are at Veteran’s Field and Lynch Middle School. Both locations have two full-sized courts each. The well attended “Stop The Violence” three on three tournament was recently held at Veteran’s and the Wishful Thinking Summer Recreation program uses the courts at Lynch on a regular basis. Both these courts appear to be in good shape to me. The only defect I found at Veteran’s was one ripped net, but all the nets at both locations appear to brand new.
There is another full-sized basketball court at Barkley School on the south side. The surface of this court is not in the greatest shape, but is still playable. Chain nets have been recently installed on this court.
As far as other locations go, Shuttleworth Park, Riverlink Park, Arnold Ave Park, and Kirk Douglas park do not currently have basketball hoops.
Sirchia Park, which is located between Division St. and Guy Park Ave, is one location that could definitely use some work. It has a large paved area that could be used for basketball, but is in need of serious repair. It has posts which look like at one time could have had basketball hoops attached to them. Alderman Ron Barone has said he wants to get hoops installed there within a matter of weeks, and I think that’s a great idea.
To me, keeping kids from playing on streets is a common sense safety measure. Thousands of children a year are injured or killed from being struck by cars, and the primary reason (as found in at least one study) tends to be when kids run out into traffic. However, the activity of playing in the streets seems to be a time-honored tradition many people don’t want to see done away with, and the risks seems relatively low, especially when conducted in low traffic areas or dead-end streets.
I think the truth is that kids walking or playing in the streets has become an increasing nuisance to drivers, and that is what is motivating the push to ban the portable hoops from streets. That’s not necessarily a bad reason, but let’s call it like it is. A ban might decrease that problem a little, but I think we will continue to see kids playing other games or walking in traffic. The answer as to why kids seem to be increasingly prone to blocking traffic in a defiant manner is a harder question to answer. I tend to agree with Alderwoman Valerie Beekman’s sentiments that we need to do a better job of teaching our kids the value of respecting others. But I’m not sure if that problem that can be fixed by legislation.
Either way, I find the argument that kids are playing in the streets because our parks are in such poor shape is without merit. I think between the school district and the city, our community is doing a good job providing plenty of safe places around the city for kids to play all sorts of games and sports. I think fixing up Sirchia Park as well as providing one or two other places to play (particularly in the East End and Reid Hill areas) would be even better.
It’s good that we are talking about the best way to improve the quality of life for Amsterdam’s youth. But our city’s parks (for the most part) are aspects of our community we can be proud of. They don’t deserve to be dragged through the mud in this debate.