Maplewood Keeps Hoop Dreams Alive for Local Kids

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The Maplewood Township Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday night to suspend the prohibition on portable basketball hoops placed on the curb, at least through the end of the year. The vote came after over an hour of often impassioned comments from members of the public – including some teens – and painstaking debate among committee members.

Residents with basketball hoops placed on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb had recently been receiving summonses with potential $1,000 fines for violating township codes against obstructing the right of way, unless they removed the hoops.

Town officials said they were responding to complaints about debris and safety issues, and that the hoops might obstruct emergency vehicles, lead to traffic accidents or become potential hazards in severe storms.

Zeke Winitsky, a Bowdoin Street teen, told the committee the basketball hoop on his street had been a “magnet” for kids on his block and it was “a good alternative to being inside or bickering.” He continued, “We don’t know any reason it shouldn’t be there.”

Jacob Kasdan at his basketball hoop

Jacob Kasdan at his basketball hoop

Jacob Kasdan of Summit Avenue said he was always “super respectful” of his neighbors and didn’t play basketball late at night. “I hope you will reconsider,” he said to the committee.

Penelope Brackett, a Bowdoin Street resident who had been summonsed to remove her hoop said, “A whole community used this and I don’t see anything like it” anywhere else in town, where children of all ages could shoot hoops.

A Tuscan Road resident pointed out a group of six boys in the audience, ranging in age from 8-15, who all shoot hoops together on their block.

“They’re as much a part of suburban childhood as ice cream trucks,” said Bowdoin Street resident Genine Babakian.

Although Mayor Vic DeLuca said the thought the committee had “overreached” in trying to ban the hoops, calling it a “mistake,” and committeeman Jerry Ryan said he would go so far as to even allow hoops in the street, other committee members had more reservations.

India Larrier, who chairs the code enforcement subcommittee, and Marlon Brownee (who along with DeLuca serves on that committee) both asked how the town could fairly enforce an ordinance that would allow curbside hoops on some streets and not others. Brownlee was concerned about the perception that the town was arbitrarily enforcing the ordinance. “Are they OK on quiet streets but not others? On a corner? On a narrow street?” he asked. “What are the criteria?”

Still, Larrier and Brownlee joined their colleagues in voting to exclude the hoops from the ordinance through 2014. The vote was greeted with loud applause and cheers from the audience. Going forward, the committee will discuss implementing a permitting system where residents could apply for a sticker to be placed on their hoops, and will seek input from the police and fire departments about potentially prohibiting hoops on some highly trafficked roads.

Larrier commended the teens for being brave enough to speak out. “That’s how government should work and you got to see it first hand,” she said. Addressing the boys’ parents, she said, “Now take them all out for ice cream!”

“We are thrilled that the Township Committee really listened to us and came to the reasonable and correct decision,” said Kasdan in an email to HistoryNusantara. “It was great for the kids to see that they can fight for causes that matter to them and effect change.”

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