Springfield Hoops Dilemma – Should The Town Bring Them Back? [POLL]
It’s happening again, only this time in Springfield.
The other day I wrote about the Belmar Skate Park and how the council there is going to lease the land to a private developer who’s going to put in its place an ice skating rink that local kids will now have to pay.
Unfair seeing is how the park has been there for a number of years; and kids have come to use it year round.
Fast forward to today, where a group of residents in Springfield had been having a fit over the use of basketball courts by youths from both inside and outside the community.
They’d been very unhappy with the rowdiness, foul language, public urination and other quality of life problems that they feel the basketball hoops brought.
Springfield’s parks got a facelift three years ago — new asphalt, new paint and new basketball hoops. The public flocked to these pretty little pocket parks. But for some residents, the parks’ new popularity soon became a big problem.
After the work was finished last year, neighbors who lived next to the parks complained to police and the town committee that large groups of young men from out of town were swearing, creating trash and even urinating on their lawns. The town responded last year, and again this spring, by taking down many of the hoops.
Nearby residents say the disappearance of the hoops has been a victory for tranquility in the suburban neighborhoods located a short distance from Baltusrol Golf Club, which hosted the 2005 PGA Championship and seven U.S. Opens.
But for others, the loss of the hoops was a disappointment.
They call the move a knee-jerk reaction, and racist because many of the young basketball players were African American and Hispanic. These residents say residents opposed the hoops don’t realize a lot of the young men playing there were local.
Neighborhood teens and young adults want the hoops returned, saying they lost a valuable recreational outlet.
"This gives us a place to do something productive," said 19-year-old Justin Grant of Springfield last week, as he tossed a basketball back and forth at Irwin Park, the lone full court space left in town. "They can’t just take that away."
The anti-hoop residents have a passionate response.
"People are intimidated," said Michael Ahrens, before one of the hoops was removed in Laurel Park across from his house. "I used to look out of my window at a beautiful park with parents and kids playing soccer, now it looks like Rahway State Prison yard."
So what to do.
Neighbors have a right to a live in an environment that they feel isn’t “threatening”.
Kids need open spaces in which to play.
Can you say “impasse!”
An immediate solution that comes to mind would be what the town fathers are doing in Belmar and leasing the land to a private developer who’d charge a fee for the use of the space and provide security.
However, that might still leave some of these kids without a viable option as to where to play basketball.
Would it be asking too much for police to patrol the parks when large groups of kids are playing there?
Were you a neighborhood resident; or had a kid who just loved to play basketball, what would you want the city to do?