One of the more contentious issues to arise in Amsterdam in recent memory was put to rest Wednesday, as the Common Council overrode the mayor’s veto and enacted a ban on basketball hoops on city streets.
Much criticism of the new law has been lodged by owners of portable hoops, and that continued Wednesday before and after the council’s 4-1 vote.
Mayor Ann Thane vetoed the ordinance when it was originally passed, and the council chamber was filled as the public waited to see if the council would override that veto.
Although it was a special meeting and there was no public comment period, Amy Hale let her voice be heard anyway before the meeting started.
Hale, the mother of an 11-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who lives on Grant Avenue, opposes the effective ban of placement of basketball hoops on city sidewalks and streets.
“Are you going to ban kickball in the streets?” she asked the council before the meeting started. “What about hockey? Jogging in the streets? Walking in the streets?”
Hale has a driveway, but it is sloped, and for her, it would actually cause more problems if they were to put their basketball hoop in the driveway. Also, with the basketball hoop out of their small driveway, kids from the neighborhood can come and play. Her driveway is too small to accommodate the number of kids who come and play.
Hale understood the issue of some kids walking in the streets and impeding traffic. However, she felt it was a different issue that should be handled without having to do away with basketball in the streets. Hale explained that there are neighborhoods in Amsterdam where residents don’t have driveways they can place basketball hoops in.
Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler introduced the ordinance as a way to prevent kids from being hit by cars while playing in the street.
According to the ordinance, playing basketball on or near city streets “presents a traffic hazard,” and “any basketball equipment located on any city street or sidewalk may be removed immediately by city workers.”
The fine for violating the ordinance could be up to $250.
According to Fabrizia Rodriguez, director of the community development initiative at community service organization Centro Civico and a summer league basketball coach, many of the kids she coaches live in rented apartments. For those kids and their families, moving the basketball hoop from the street and into a driveway wouldn’t be an option since the driveway is shared by other tenants.
The council ultimately voted 4-1 (with Alderwoman Valerie Beekman as the only dissenting vote) to override the mayor’s veto and make the ordinance law.
Thane expressed her disapproval, saying it targeted neighborhoods where there is nowhere else to play.
“I think it brings shame to our community,” she said about the new law.
Alderman Richard Leggiero explained after the meeting that he received support from his constituents for voting in favor of the ordinance.
“I have already received a number of phone calls to say to stick with my decision on this matter,” he explained.
However, Leggiero said he is open to beautifying the parks in the city so kids have a place to play. Also, if enough constituents voice their displeasure with the new law, he would be open to changing his mind on it.
Frank DiCaprio, who lives on Austin Street, has daughters ages 21 and 14, as well as a 19-year-old son. They have a driveway but it’s cracked and not an ideal place to play basketball.
He too wondered where else the new law could lead.
“What is next?” he said. “We play pitch and catch in the street. Will that be next?”
Rodriguez explained the next step for those who disapprove of the law: “We’re definitely going to get a petition going.”