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Street hoop ban survives veto, is now in effect

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The Amsterdam Common Council voted 4-1 this evening to override Mayor Ann Thane’s veto of an ordinance which would prohibit portable basket ball hoops in city streets. The council passed the ordinance on July 1st citing safety issues and complaints from residents about players not moving out of the path of traffic. A number of people, including many children, attended the meeting but there was no public comments allowed.

Thane said that the ban was not needed because there are already laws that prohibit people from blocking traffic. She said, “there is an uncomfortable bias to this resolution because it targets neighborhoods where really there is no other place to play. It’s typically in impoverished areas and in situations where there are multifamily units and there’s not driveways, that’s really the people who are going to be hurt by this.”

Thane said there was no proof that there were any outstanding safety issues associated with basketball played in the streets and there have been no reported accidents that she knew of.

“This is just really an expression of intolerance of other people,” Thane said, “I think it brings shame to our community.”

Alderwoman Valerie Beekman, who cast the lone vote against the veto and had previously voted against the measure, said it was inconsistent to ban only basketball, adding that they would now have to ban all other games, such as football or hopscotch.

Alderman Rich Leggerio said, “why don’t we give these kids – children a place to play? I don’t mean on the streets either…we’ve seen pictures before of delapidated basket courts that really aren’t playable. Let’s concentrate on getting those fixed so the kids will have a place to go.”

“It is my sincere wish that this council allocates the resources necessary to upgrade [the parks]. We’ve had requests for these capital improvements for years now,” said Thane.

Leggerio said, “I blame the Recreation Department because basketball is recreation. And it should be followed through on taking care of this matter of kids playing on the streets. It’s just not fair to the kids. They have to have a place to play and it’s not on the sidewalks and in the road.”

Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said that the problems at Sirchia Park (in between Division St. and Guy Park Ave) which include missing basketball hoops and sink holes, had been known for some time, but that neither the Recreation Department or Mayor Thane had done anything about it. She pointed out that hoops in other small parks, such as the Arnold Ave. park, had been taken down in the past because of complaints about players playing late at night.

“We need more basketball hoops in the city. We need more playgrounds in the city,” said Hatzenbuhler.

She went on to say that currently, police officers have to see a person block traffic themselves before they can take any action, which made it difficult to catch violators. She said that with the new ordinance the police department would have the power to remove the hoops if found on the street or sidewalk.

“I don’t believe these hoops should be in the roads,” said Alderman Ed Russo, “I think it’s a safety issue for the kids.”  He added that the ordinance could be amended in the future and that he was in conversation with the Recreation Department about making improvements to the parks.

Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick said that he was prepared to enforce the law whichever way the vote went. He said he has told his officers to use “great discretion” in enforcing the ban and that it would be primarily enforced in situations where there were complaints from residents.

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

18 Responses to Street hoop ban survives veto, is now in effect

  1. Jeannette Stevens-Daury says:

    First of all, it is dangerous for children to play basketball, baseball, or any game in the street, unless it is a dead end. I have driven down Division Street numerous times and most of the time, the children moved when a car came by. However, I have also had to slam my brakes when a child bounced a ball while moving, and ran to go after it…kids are not always going to think about this, and one day, one of them will be hit.
    Secondly, rather that build new parks, we need to fix the ones we have, and install security cameras to catch any wrongdoing. I have tried taking my grandchildren to the parks, but they are so disgustingly dirty and in disrepair, I stopped going. This is a disgrace. The Recreation Department should be taking care of these parks, and they should get cleaned and repaired every year.
    Our children DO need safe places to play, but the street is not the place, and it is up to the city to take care of this. You cannot just pass an ordinance and then not fix the real problem.
    And just putting a veto on the ordinance is not the answer unless you have a better solution. Kid’s safety has to come first.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I take my kids to the parks in Amsterdam very frequently. Most of them are in decent shape by my observation. Sirchia park is the one that is in the worst shape and definitely needs attention.

  2. “Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick said that he was prepared to enforce the law whichever way the vote went. He said he has told his officers to use “great discretion” in enforcing the ban and that it would be primarily enforced in situations where there were complaints from residents.”

    The lack of enforcing current vehicle an traffic laws was part of the reason for establishing the new ordinance. It was irresponsible for the Police Chief to make a statement suggesting the ordinance would only be enforced upon receiving a complaint. That is how we got into this mess to begin with. Police Officers have a duty to enforce all laws and ordinances, not turn a blind eye to violations as they drive by on patrol.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I think it would be absolutely irresponsible for the APD to go around confiscating every portable hoop they see on the street, just as it would be as irresponsible for them to arrest every jay walker they see. Personally, I want to see our police focused on stopping *crime* not chasing after every minor violation.

      If enforcement was really the root problem, then why would anyone think a new ordinance would be a solution?

      They way I see it, this ordinance was passed because of complaints in certain areas. My guess is that this ordinance will help fix those problem areas, and that will be the extent of the impact this ordinance has.

    • Dylon says:

      No, the reason this is an issue is because during the Thane administration and under Rob Spagnola, 4 parks w/hoops have been closed. And with the prolification of these easily made and somewhat cheaply sold portable hoops, kids are being forced to play more in the streets. Sirchia, Arnold Ave., Edward St. and the east end park behind the kids center have all been taken out of service and not maintained. These are the reasons why not as you put it the Police fault.

    • TJ Kelley says:

      Not irresponsible. It’s called application of criminal justice. You’re not in law enforcement so it’s likely to be outside the scope of experience. Police officers take an oath to uphold the constitution….militarizing your police force to satisfy the annoyance of an old curmudgeon doesn’t really pass constitutional muster.

  3. My point is that laws, codes and ordinances are worthless if there is no enforcement. Selective enforcement is not the answer as it promotes inequality, targeting certain neighborhoods or class of people. It should not matter what neighborhood you live in or who you know, law is only effective if it is enforced.

    • Tim Becker says:

      There are many ordinances against noise and other nuisances, and my understanding is that police generally don’t go looking for these types of violations, they enforce them when people complain. So I think this particular ordinance will be handled much in the same way. The chief never said he wasn’t going to enforce it and I certainly don’t see any indication they are going to target one area or another.

      • Dylon says:

        Police need discretion in this matter for remedial action and if they answer constituents complaints, they will not as Jerry puts it which is similar to the case Thane is trying to make to hurt the City under civil liberties, is not selective enforcement acted upon certain neighborhoods and people.

  4. diane says:

    We all know that there are current laws on the books to address these issues, but unless caught in the act, the officer can do nothing. Now with a great big hoop in the street and with numerous complaints, the officer can use his utmost discretion and act. This is just a final tool that does not require the observation of people jaywalking ……..the hoop stands on its own.

    And yes, we are working to correct the deficiency’s in the city parks. They never should have been allowed to deteriorate the way they have. Rob has sufficient funds to cover the cost of many of these fixes, and this council will see that these issues are corrected. And in conversations with La Don Alomar from Centro Civico, she is also offering her parking lot to be used for basketball. In the next couple of weeks you should be seeing some very positive changes.

    • Dylon says:

      Diane, while I understand this was not a #1 priority for the City. Unfortunately I have been reading all these negative comments based on false info being spread from people connected to the administration & Rec. Dept. and people who haven’t even read the law nor understand It’s remedial benefit. I applaud your strength and that of the other strong votes who supported this ordinance. I just wanted to say thank you for doing something rather than nothing. You and Amsterdam are not alone on this issue. Many municipalities have passed similar ordinances across the country and in the Mohawk & Capitol District acting on behalf of their constituency. What’s sad is the hate that some throw, I am ashamed as to the hate that has been leveled against our young people in a blanket approach to color them as criminals if these hoops are taken away from them. I have confidence our APD will use good common sence in enforcing this law. I thank you and your coleges for addressing this matter with the dignity you have shown as compared to others.

      I also will be holding you and the council responsible for following through on reopening, creating more play areas for kids in order to get them off the streets. This administration has acted like a monarchy and I expect you all to return us to a democracy where you all work for us tax payers and not the self serving who paint unrealistic fairytales.

    • TJ Kelley says:

      First, spell her name right. It’s Ladan!

      Second, where did you get your J.D.? You are all over the map with your pretend knowledge of jurisprudence. The hoops stand on their own and no need of observable jaywalking is required for discretionary enforcement?!

  5. “Dylon” (or whomever you are), you follow suit with the alderwoman and talk about things you do not know. That’s the only fairytale being told.

    In fact, we’ve cut back vegetation and “spruced up” Sirchia Park for years. I replaced the ancient playground equipment with the play structure that is there now and Liberty painted the mural to match it. We painted out graffiti and planted new perennials. We have plans for the basketball courts but must be able to bond for capital improvements. The council cut our recreation equipment line by $4,000. I can’t see where they’re going to put up $20,000 to make the necessary improvements to this basketball court out of the operational budget, can you?

    My administration has put cameras in parks and around the city when our budget allowed. We built out Riverlink Park (which has a lovely playground, performance area, party tent, and terrific cafe.) We put in the basketball hoops and softball field at Vets (and are building out a soccer field now) and rehabilitated the pool house and grounds. We have brought ice skating back to City Hall and have built the new fishing/ice skating area and warming huts at Shuttleworth. We put in a walking path along the Chuctanunda at Shuttleworth and made repairs to the tennis courts there, not to mention all of the improvements made at the stadium (that turf is attracting more play at the park than ever!) We host summer camp at the new Bacon Recreation Center, hold classes of all kinds at the new Arts Center, started a community garden and 4H club there, and give out free breakfast and lunches at both centers. We bus kids from the East End to the pool for free. We host countless events including the hugely successful Spring Fling, Parkfest and Homecoming. We work with kids on public art projects like the beautiful CCAC mosaic, City Hall labyrinth and several murals. We have kicked off our “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” health and wellnss initiative by partnering with GASD, SMH, Centro Civico, Catholic Charities and others. We facilitate most league sports around the city.

    My administration started the neighborhood watch initiative and have sponsored two citywide clean-ups every year that have taken out 24 tons of litter and debris to date from these public areas. And YES, we’ve planted gardens and thousands of bulbs to beautify our city.

    And here’s a fact: before I took office, most of this was not even a thought.

    Here’s another fact: the prior administration did nothing to clean up or maintain these pocket parks.

    We continue to do everything we can to meet the needs of this community, even though this council just cut the recreation budget. That the same council has most recently stumbled onto the condition of some of these smaller parks because of a few FB comments and blundered with the basketball hoop legislation is good. Now, they can put their money where their mouths are and can allocate the funding we need to make these pocket parks flourish.

    • Dylon says:

      Mayor, good to have your attention and how about simply staying on issue rather than whitewashing and changing the discussion. Why, during the time of your administration have we seen closed parks where basketball hoops once stood? I give examples not fluff, Edward St., East Main St. behind the Creative Center, and the Arnold Ave. park closure is connected to your administration whether you realize it or not. At least please explain the closures.
      What are you going to do to open more opportunities for playing sports like basketball “off” the streets for kids?^
      Yes, Riverlink park has seen a great deal of care and Expense although they’re no hoops and actually I think funds from the other closed parks mentioned here have been redirected to Riverlink!
      Solutions, just look to the many area’s I mentioned for places to open hoops and Tim was on point but to speak specifically, how about working with GASD to better maintain the hoops behind Curie and the Brandt courts for starters or expand. Bacon is a gem so maintain her. Let’s not forget 5th Ward Park, 2 more hoops which are currently unplayable and a shame to it’s memorial. There used to be hoops on Van Dyke, it connected to the 4th Ward Park, now all just a blighted city owned overgrown lot.
      Staying focused on issues helps to resolve them, now lets see if you and the council can follow up with action rather than directing blame and giving lip service because the only reason I supported the council initially was because they did something here about people/kids blocking the road when playing basketball which you of course did not. BTW I don’t believe there is any such BAN on playing basketball in the street, unless you block the road and if that is found to be the case than they should see their portable hoop removed and/or fined.

      • Dear anonymous person, why not come out into the light of day and show us who you really are? Oh! I digress!

        I don’t know what you are talking about. Edward Street park was closed before I took office. The “playground” behind the Arts Center consisted of two swing sets that were so frequently vandalized they had no swings. They were just rusting frames that had become a liability. We had them removed and volunteers from the center started the community garden which is tended by the neighborhood kids. We’re trying to figure out how to pay to have the back parking lot milled and paved for play during the day and parking at night. Kind of tough to do without capital funding.

        The hoops at Arnold Avenue park were removed long before I took office but the playground is still open. The neighborhood has held a meet and greet there for the past few years which is a great time. We’d tried twice to put an ice skating rinks there a couple of years in a row but it also was so vandalized we had to give it up. Arnold Avenue’s another park that could use new equipment and capital improvements. Again, without funding, we’re stalled.

        Riverlink Park has been paid for in its entirety from State grants; no city taxes went toward its construction though we maintain it as a major attraction on our riverfront. Maybe you and the fourth ward alderwoman could take in a concert and meal together before the season ends. I’m sure you’d enjoy it. It’s spectacular.

        I can’t imagine where VanDyke connects to a fourth ward park… It’s in the first ward and I don’t remember there ever being a court on that road, just a golf course.

        We’re working on rehabbing the playground structure at the Bacon campus on August 9th. So far, 75 volunteers have offered to help. Sirchia Park volunteers are having a get together in the 23rd. All of these people are taking action instead of complaining about condiyions anonymously.

        We also work with the GASD to provide sports activities across the whole city.

        The recently passed law makes portable hoops illegal in the street or on the sidewalk, whether you’re playing or not. Hypothetically, APD could remove every hoop in site that violates this law though I suspect they will exercise discretion.

        I don’t need to follow up with action because I’ve never stopped taking it. It’s the council that will have to come through with funding if they consider these parks a true priority. I know I do, which is why I’ve repeatedly gone to bat for our families and youths. You can choose to discuss on hoops. Our city deserves much more than your narrow focus, which is why we’ve been so busy on everything I’d listed above. I remain committed to making this city a better place than I found it and the list of improvements speaks to our success so far. We’ve just got to keep at it.

      • Mohawk Valley Compass says:

        Commenters are allowed to remain anonymous if they choose. Let’s debate the issues at hand rather than whether a person is anonymous or not. Thank you.

  6. Dylon says:

    Oh Mayor why not be honest with your constituency and stop talking down people who don’t share your view.
    We are allowed to have an option that differs from yours, we are not evil or have an political agendas as you do.
    Its apparent you don’t know what your talking about. Edward St. was finally closed down by the Rec. Dept during your administration only after years of neglect by the ARD. There were hoops behind the arts center prior to you taken over the building and grounds, the hoops were in the parking lot before. As for Arnold I never wrote saying you closed it during your administration but you sure know how to spin what someone else writes.
    As for Riverlink yes the park was built w/State funds but of course I was referring back then to the budget that you ear Mark for the park and spend on its maintenance that comes from city taxpayers why because the park was under canal maintenance and only because of your actions we taxpayers do contribute money to it unlike your saying Riverlink park has been paid entirety thru state grants; no tax dollars toward maintenance. Misrepresenting the truth is what your doing here.
    I understand you can’t amagine where the 4th ward park is on Milton because a carpet bagger wouldn’t know that the hoops were on VanDerveer and not my spell check correction of Van Dyke.
    Lastly telling you of problem area’s is not complaining but bring attention to the proper authorities expecting something to be done not to be demagogue for doing so.
    Please remove that chip off your shoulder because its makes you look like a bully rather than a good standing public official.

    • Mohawk Valley Compass says:

      Ok folks, it’s starting to get a little personal here. I think everyone has had their say, so I’m closing the comments now.