Written by Alan Krawitz Friday, 16 July 2010 00:00
If village officials get their way, skateboarders in Farmingdale may soon have to start carrying their checkbooks along with their gear.
At a recent village board meeting and public hearing, legislation was introduced to regulate all skating activity in the village, including skateboards, roller blades, roller skates and even sneaker skates. Stiff penalties could also be imposed for would-be violators of the legislation.
The proposed legislation would make it illegal for skaters to ride on sidewalks, on any commercial property in the village and in municipal parking fields. The legislation specifically targets municipal parks, such as the recently renovated North Side Pocket Park and the Village Green as well as in and around Farmingdale Village’s LIRR station.
“Skateboarders would be subject to the same laws as bicyclists and other motor vehicle traffic,” said Village Clerk Brian Harty.
In addition, the legislation directs skateboarders riding in any residential area to yield to pedestrians and also to use reflective clothing when riding at night.
“We have major issues in nearby Pocket Park,” said Mayor George “Butch” Starkie. “Bricks are being damaged, thousands of dollars in damage is being done.”
Saying that the village has invested thousands of dollars to beautify local parks, the mayor cited numerous complaints from people at Pocket Park that railings have been damaged and that skateboarders do “tricks” that cause damage to benches, bricks and landscaping.
And, those skateboarder tricks could prove costly. The proposed penalties for those who run afoul of the village’s new regulations were $100 fines and/or up to five days in jail.
Starkie told the audience at the village meeting that the Nassau County Police had approached the village in recent months and asked specifically for an ordinance on the books to control skateboarding.
A video posted to YouTube shows the “Farmingdale Skate Team” doing tricks near the railroad station, in Pocket Park as well as various parts of the village.
“I’m not in favor of prison,” said Trustee Cheryl Parisi. “I’d scratch that from the ordinance.” But, while Parisi did say she wants skateboarders to yield to pedestrians, she said the bigger issue is the destruction of parks.
Trustee Ralph Ekstrand noted that skating in front of commercial property was a big problem. “It’s not good for business,” he said.
Local resident Richard Sposota challenged the regulations asking, “Where are the kids supposed to go? Kids have bikes too. Why should skateboarders be subject to these regulations?”
Mayor Starkie countered that he has viewed the physical damage to the parks first-hand. However, he also added that the village hopes to partner with developers in the future and create more green space.
“Right now, we just don’t have the resources to build a separate place for skateboarders to ride,” the mayor said, admitting that his own son had suffered two skateboard-related injuries.
Resident Barbara Carpenter said that many kids also use skateboards as transportation and she argued that local businesses would suffer if the proposed legislation passes.
“All the kids want to do is skateboard but there are no parks for them to use,” she said. “The kids are not vandalizing the parks, they’re using them.”
Resident Nancy Brackman said that few adults use Pocket Park. She also compared the village to the fictional municipality that tried to ban dancing in the movie Footloose. “How can we ban skating?” she asked.
Several residents also asked if grants could be used to build a skate park. “The grant that we received was for a passive park and so we renovated North Side Pocket Park. I don’t know if we’ll ever have a skate park in place,” the mayor admitted.
Outside the meeting, several young skateboarders expressed their dissatisfaction with the village’s proposal.
“It’s BS, man,” said a local 17-year-old who didn’t want his name used. “The cops already harass us for skating. They have nothing better to do than give out $100 fines?”
But, the mayor did say that some definite changes would be made to the proposed legislation by the next village board meeting. Residents will be able to once again comment on the proposed skateboard legislation at the continued public hearing on August 2.
“We heard the public and I know I am open to some significant changes to the proposed law,” Starkie said. “I am sorry to say that the village does not have any land available to install a skate park. I personally believe Oyster Bay will have to address this when they expand Allen Park.”
“I will be there with the kids lobbying for the skate park myself,” the mayor added.