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.