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Amsterdam bans street basketball

Updated: 07/23/2014 11:56 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 6:33 PM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

AMSTERDAM - It's known as "the city game," but from this day forward, in the city of Amsterdam, basketball is no longer allowed on the avenues and boulevards of the community.

That means, if a group of kids wants to play a game of touch football in the street, that's o.k. And if they want to toss around a baseball, or a frisbee, or play street hockey, no problem. But for any kid who dares to attempt to shoot a jump shot from the street, that kid would be breaking the law.

Twelve-year-old Brandon Ribot says he's disappointed he won't be able to play hoops in the street in front of his house any more.

"When cars come, I go to the sidewalk and I give them their respect," he said, holding a miniature toy basketball while attending the City Council meeting with friends.

The City Council voted 4-to-1, with the only Democrat on the council, Valerie Beekman, casting the no vote to override Democrat Mayor Ann Thane's veto, thus establishing a law, in the name of safety they say, that prohibits basketball on any city street.

"I don't want to be that person that has to walk up to that kid's parent and say, 'Your child just got hurt on the street or you child just got killed,' said 1st Ward Alderman Edward Russo.

"All sports would be dangerous if they're being played in the street," said 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero."

When asked why he isn't considering banned all sports, Leggiero responded, "Maybe that's in the works."

The penalty for violating the no-hoops ordinance could be $250 or the city could confiscate the privately owned basketball hoop.

Many people at Wednesday's council meeting were questioning the logic of the new law.

"I don't get that either," said Thane, who calls the new law "ridiculous and wrong-minded," insisting that it unfairly targets minority communities. "You can't charge a child $250 and you can't make an adult, a parent, or a guardian pay for a violation that their child has committed."

Even though there's an expectation that kids would be forced to play in city parks, because of financial limitations, that's not always an option.

"They can play basketball in the park but not every neighborhood has a park," said Ladan Alomar, executive director of Centro Civico.

"You're going to push them back indoors," said Matt Moller of the Wishful Thinking Foundation. "They're going to be scared to shoot the ball because they can't afford a $250 fine, they're 15 and 16 years old."

The new law takes effect immediately.

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