Springfield Hoops Dilemma – Part 2 – Satisfied with the Outcome? [POLL]
Yesterday in this space, and last night on the air, we tackled the subject of the hoops controversy in Springfield Township.
And just like at last night’s committee meeting to discuss the issue; lots of decent solutions were raised.
In case you weren’t present, the controversy arose over the newly renovated full basketball courts in Springfield allegedly being used by out of town players who were being accused of using foul language; urinating on neighbors’ lawns, littering, and possible drug use.
In response, the township removed some of the hoops from the parks, rendering them half court parks; and leaving one full court.
This angered some community members who cried “racism” given that many of the players using the courts were either African American or Hispanic.
As a result of last night’s committee meeting…where some residents implored council to maintain the status quo, the council did just that…according to this report:
— one full court and six half-courts.
The committee also said it would consider adding full courts to more public places such as Jonathan Dayton High School or the Union County-owned Meisel Park.
"Race was not something that factored into this decision. There is not a racist bone in any gentleman on this committee," Mayor Ziad Andrew Shehady told about 70 people who packed the council chambers tonight.
In fact, before the public portion of last night’s meeting, Shehady told the crowd to leave any discussion of race out of their comments.
The debate, which lasted about 45 minutes, was split.
"The responsibility of the committee is to make decisions for the majority of people, not the ones who yell the loudest," former Mayor Bart Fraenkel said.
Fraenkel suggested a two-strike system be implemented in which police respond to complaints and then eject players from the courts if a second complaint is lodged.
Another resident, Bill Brody, who has coached 8th grade girls basketball in Millburn for 20 years and recruits for Montclair State and Temple universities, stressed the importance of the full court areas.
"Look at some of these kids here today. These kids aren’t Kobe Bryants, but they want full courts because they’re getting in games and they’re getting better," he said. "That’s because they’re playing against out of towners."
Some residents complained about screaming, fights and intimidation from some players.
Sue Bonkowski described an incident in which, she said, she was physically forced off of a court at Cohn Park.
"There were liquor bottles and crack cocaine in my driveway. There were 38 people playing at a time, screaming and yelling, I could hear them through the window" she said.
Solutions proposed during last night’s meeting included installing Port-O-Potties, adding more garbage cans or scheduling times when different age groups can play.
The court renovations were partly funded by the state, which means they cannot be restricted to Springfield residents.
"Our intention was never to make it exclusionary,"Committeeman David Almen said. "six half courts and one full seems to keep the balance between resident use and resident peace of mind."
Sounds like they would just rather have punted!
What say you?