By CASEY CROUCHER
An ordinance passed two weeks ago banning basketball hoops from city streets and sidewalks was a hot topic at Tuesday's Common Council meeting in Amsterdam.
The council voted 4 to 1 on July 1 to prohibit any type of basketball game in city streets. Residents questioned that decision Tuesday night.
"It's a shame you guys would get rid of [the hoops,]" Fabrizia Rodriguez, director of Centro Civico and Community Development Initiative, said to the council.
Rodriguez, a second-year youth basketball coach, criticized the council for passing the ordinance on behalf of children's safety yet leaving the youngsters with nowhere to play.
"Children are in more danger," she said. "Now they're not playing basketball at their homes, they're getting inside abandoned buildings, they're out there at these parks with unsafe conditions, and I don't think I need to go into detail about the teen pregnancy and school dropout rate here."
She brought photos of the city's small parks, showing council members the unsatisfactory conditions of the courts and basketball hoops.
"These are no conditions for children to go to," she said.
Rodriguez suggested the council help repair the city's outdoor courts so children can play in a safe environment.
Third Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said he was sticking with the ordinance. He gave an example of Division Street, saying it is not safe for kids to be playing in the streets.
"It's a two-lane highway and there are kids out on that street playing with sandals on, and when their shoes fall off and they try to get out of the way of a car, whose responsibility is that?" Barone said. "Does it become Centro Civico's? Does it become the city's? Does it become mine? Whose responsibility is it when one of these children is killed in the street? So, I'm thinking about that factor and I'm thinking about the safety of our children. I hold that above all."
However, he agreed with Rodriguez in that the city's small parks aren't safe for children to go to and they're in "deplorable shape."
He said he went with Recreation Department Director Rob Spagnola to Sirchia Park and they formulated a plan to repair the basketball court there.
Barone said they'll take the wall with the murals on it and extending it to the fence so that the courts will be fenced in.
"We're going to get that done," he said.
He said the court's pavement will have to be repaired as well, because a lot of the courts have pot holes and cracks that are dangerous.
"If we subject kids to that and they go there and break a leg and hurt themselves the liability falls on us," he said. "We really need to take a look at all the parks in our areas."
Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman, the only council member who voted against the ordinance, said she still stands by her decision.
"I still think [this ordinance] is a bad idea because it's not necessary on all streets, just some," Beekman said. "We still need to teach responsibility. We used to play in the streets growing up. We knew to get out of the way when a car came through. Taking things doesn't teach kids anything, it only teaches them that we don't care."
Mayor Ann Thane, who originally signed the ordinance, pulled her signature and will now veto it after hearing the outcries.
"We already have laws on the books that preclude kids from stopping traffic, from being too noisy, from being disrespectful or disruptive. There are already laws on the books that the police department can take care of in these situations," Thane said. "Putting this law on the books won't inspire people to parent better, they won't know this law is on the books. It will not change the behavior of these kids. This won't give the police department any more muscle to handle this situation and in fact it targets an at-risk and impoverished demographic."
Thane said the council and the city need to invest in the city's smaller parks so the children can use them.
Council members plan to look at parks in or near their wards and come up with solutions to help alleviate the basketball hoop issue.