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Mon., Aug. 31
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Play ball


To The Editor:

Summer is almost upon us, and the question becomes one of what to do with the kids, especially if you’re tired of them hanging around the house. Not to wonder. Just send them out into the street to play ball. Don’t worry about cars possibly hitting them, because city officials don’t seem to care. If you’re a driver and you possibly hit a child, guess who’s going to be sued, even though you have the legal right to be in the street and the child doesn’t. Playing ball in the street does not make them pedestrians. For drivers, it becomes one of playing dodge ball, dodge kid and becomes even more dangerous when this activity is carried on at night. Basketball devices have been set up on the public right of way and sometimes even in the street proper. What happens if one of these devices falls on a vehicle or a child? What if a vehicle hits the device? I suggest that if you own one of these devices and it’s on a public right of way or in the road, you make sure you have a good lawyer, for guess who’s going to be sued. It was pointed out to me in one instance that the device was on private property, so no action could be taken. Unbelievable! The municipal code does not speak to the placement of the device. Read the code.

If you’ve never perused the city’s municipal code, you should. Number 153-4, entitled “playing in city streets” states: “No person shall play ball or knock or kick any ball or play any other game or sport in any public street, lane or alley in this city.” Number 153-5, entitled “throwing snowballs and missiles”: “No person shall throw a snowball or any other missile or instrument in, over or across any public street, lane or alley in the city.”

Unlike some other codes which state how the codes would be enforced, such as where to write a complaint, time frames, fines, nowhere do these two codes speak to how they would be enforced. Some codes indicate fines for first, second and third offenses. It would seem that the powers that be who occupy Club Bubble assume that everyone knows, and we all know what the word “assume” means.

For several years I have tried to get the first code stated herein enforced, sometimes successfully, most times not. Lately it has become clear to me that there is a great reluctance to enforce the code, and I suggest that there is a gender bias attached, given that a city official stated to me that if the kids are prevented from playing basketball (usually meaning boys) in the streets, then they can’t play stickball. Again, read the code.

Your tax money helps maintain parks. The New York Avenue park has an area set aside with two basketball devices, and one can play stickball in said area, but personally I have never seen anyone playing there. I even suggested to a city official that perhaps a team or teams might be organized to play basketball in the park. That suggestion was shot down. Imagine trying to promote the use of the park!

Turning a blind eye to this activity, in my estimation, is tantamount to malfeasance on the part of city officials. Having the code on paper covers the city’s responsibility but not enforcing the code smacks of enabling and condoning the activity. What a wonderful example to set. It would appear that gender bias trumps safety.

If you’re a parent reading this, bear in mind that if you allow your children to participate in this activity in the street and they get hit by a vehicle, guess who’s going to be blamed. You are. Just because you see this activity going on around the city does not mean it’s acceptable or lawful, but you probably think it’s OK because nothing is done to stop it. The city is covered by virtue of the aforementioned municipal code, but you’re not, and personally I believe that code is not worth the paper it’s printed on if it’s not going to be vigorously enforced. Pass this information on to your friends and parents, who allow this activity and remember to have your children wear helmets for bicycling, scootering, etc. in the streets.

Drusilla Howland


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