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January 23, 2014 - 7:21pm

City's skate park has uncertain future after officials have all of the ramps removed

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, skate park.

To you, it probably just looks like a picture of a vacant lot with a piles of snow at the far end, but to Joseph Barclay Jr. it is -- or was -- a skate park.

Barclay asked on Facebook if The Batavian would look into why the city's skate park off Evans Street, behind the Falleti Ice Arena, disappeared.

Today, City Manager Jason Molino said the skate park had become a problem and it's future is uncertain.

"The park keeps getting vandalized and we were just putting good money after bad," Molino said.

In the fall, when city workers went to remove a couple of damaged ramps, they found drug paraphernalia and hypodermic instruments inside the equipment.

At that point, officials decided to remove the skate park all together. Molino said the city will decide what to do with it in the spring.

Barclay thinks he and his skating friends need a place to roll.

"I know all the BMXers, skateboarders and rollerbladers plan on using the streets again if the park isn't returned to us," Barclay said. "We should have a place where we can do our sports where we won't be in danger. Instead they take it away from us. It makes us use the streets again putting people and kids in danger of getting hit by cars."

Molino said he's aware there are a few users of the park, but Chief of Police Shawn Heubusch is concerned about the location on Evans, Molino said. Tucked behind the ice arena, it's not easily visible to people, which perhaps gives some visitors to the park the idea that it's a good place for illegal activity.

Vandalism in all of the city parks has become an increasing problem, Molino said. Water fountains, bathroom fixtures, tennis courts and nets, ball fields and basketball hoops have been regularly targeted by vandals, Molino said.

"It's a constant problem that we're trying to deal with in our parks," Molino said.

Kyle Couchman
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So will the same solution be applied to those other parks and equipment that is targeted in them Mr. Molino. I have already seen boarders mucking around behind Dollar General in between our winter blasts. Seems because these people (skateboarders and bmx'ers) are easily dismissed that this is a simple solution but then your statement that the same abuse has become a problem all over makes this move seem VERY SELECTIVE.

Users of the park aren't off the hook though either. I'm sure they are aware of what activity goes on there and they need to co-operate with the police, no matter how uncool or snitch like it may seem. Its their park for their activity and if they dont care enough to fight the abuses that are getting it closed then they really have no right to complain or use our parkinglots and streets as a replacement. Can't have things both ways.

Beth Kinsley
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If I recall there were quite a few people who pushed for this park when it was built and it seems like there should have been some discussion before Molino decided it should go.

Mark Potwora
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I agree with Beth..Shouldn't this be up to city council to close any park..Be it a skate park ,or any park in the city...If drug paraphernalia and hypodermic instruments were found in Austin park does Molino has the authority to close that park..Shouldn't be up the the taxpayer to make the call not Molino...How is this park hid...The fire dept is right there.I'm sure they can keep an eye out over there..

Greg Rada
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I remember when there was a cry against the skaters and bikers and they cried back with no where to go. I was at the gathering in front of the mall myself. We just wanted a place to skate and do tricks. Granted there were a few punks that were problems, but with a place to go that could be solved for the most part. Plus, if I'm correct, the reasons for that location was:

1) It was near an already existing skate rink.
2) EMS was right there in case of an injury.
3) It was right realitively under the nose of law enforcement.

I think this is something that the council should look at and refresh/rework, but not remove. There's good in having that park.

Brian Odachowski
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Instead of "throwing good money after bad" in repairing vandalism in our city parks, why not make an investment in surveillance cameras to deter the problem. Over time, the cameras would pay for themselves by cutting back on vandalism repair costs, assisting law enforcement in identifying individuals engaging in criminal activities, and it would make for a safer environment for our children playing in the parks. If our children are asking for places to safely play outdoors - rather than sitting in front of a computer screen, glued to a PlayStation or Xbox, or hanging out in a parking lot - then I believe we should provide those places and encourage them to get outside and play!

Brian Graz
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Is Jason Molino taking lessons from Andrew Cuomo on how to govern?

John Roach
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Brain, a camera is in the City budget this year and many people are against your idea over privacy concerns.

Kyle Couchman
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Well John thats because people are pretty ignorant about what Police procedure is with cameras. They dont invade privacy any more than a cruiser from the street does. I have walked down the streets here after dark and I dont see many ground floor or 2nd floor windows with curtains drawn or blinds lowered for privacy. Cameras monitor the outsides of properties and invade no more than code enforcement or police do just passing by. The only thing is they can watch longer and don't blink and can't be argued with in court.

I would think once more information is related to the public the only people that would rationally object are those who would have something to lose.

John Roach
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Kyle,
I agree with you. This park problem is a good example of where cameras can help.

Dave Olsen
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John, to me there is a difference between pointing a camera at a specific house and having a camera to monitor activity at a public park where equipment that the taxpayers are paying for is being vandalized. It's about protecting the city residents' property.

I don't necessarily have a problem with street cameras per se as long as it monitoring the public thoroughfares and not private property. As Kyle wrote, it's no different than an officer driving or walking up and down a street. It's just always there and has a perfect memory.

But I can understand why some folks do take issue. It's like the fable of the camel and the tent. There has to be very specific limitations in place before the first camera gets switched on.

Howard B. Owens
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I don't recall any talk of cameras being pointed at a specific house.

Dave Olsen
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Howard B. Owens
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I don't see it.

Jason Post
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Assuming you mean this part: "Rob Yaeger, Batavia PD's assistant chief, said during an interview today that seeing surveillance cameras on the homes of known troublemakers is an increasing trend.

"Usually it's the houses we have to go to repeatedly, they have the cameras," Yaeger said. "They want to know who's coming to their door.""

That's not Rob saying police are pointing cameras at problem houses. That's him saying that the problem houses are setting up cameras pointed at the street so they have a heads up on who is coming.

Howard B. Owens
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There's also this:

"I certainly wouldn't want one out in front of my house, but if I lived on a bad block, I might want one in front of my house," Heubusch said.

But that isn't Heubusch saying he wants a camera pointed at a house, just put in front of the house. The inference in my mind is, pointed at the street.

Frankly, I wish he had phrased it differently: "I certainly wouldn't want one out in front of my house, but if I lived on a bad block, I might want one in my neighborhood," because I take that to be his meaning.

Dave Olsen
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No fellas, it is this one: "It's our property," Heubusch said. "We're the ones in charge of keeping the safety and security of the residents of the city. I'm not going to depend on somebody else to put a video surveillance system on a troubled property. I'll do that myself. That's my job."

Freudian slip?

tim raines
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The next time you're driving to Florida to escape the bad weather stop by the new $1.8 million lighted skateboard park here in the Atlanta burbs.

Check it out on www.youtube.com

Kennesaw skateboard park

Mark Brudz
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There is no difference in placing a camera on a telephone pole on a city street than there is a detective doing a stake out on that same city street with a camera and telephoto lens sitting in an unmarked car, except that it would be much less expensive to the community.

It is far different than placing a hidden camera inside of some ones home or car. Even in a case where a camera might be pointed at a particular house or business. It is basically called an investigation.

The fallacy, yes I said fallacy, that a camera on public street or in a public area is unconstitutional or a violation of rights is almost laughable. Even if a camera is pointing toward a home or business, the only thing a camera sees is what is in plain view and not protected by the 4th amendment.

Law Enforcement, particularly in a small community like ours, does not have the resources to play big brother and just randomly place cameras around ad hoc. If a camera is pointed at a particular location, simple resource management would necessitate a sound investigative reason.

Howard B. Owens
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Those are good points, Mark, but I would submit:

If I wanted to walk down your street taking pictures of whatever I want, in plain view, even your house, I could. There's nothing you know the police could do about it.

But what if I came by your house everyday and took a picture, or every hour, or what if I parked my car out front and took pictures, or even parked a car and left a web came pointed at your house.

At some point, this rises to the level of harassment. It's a crime.

Well, there should be some check on government harassment of individuals.

I'm fine with a generalized camera on a public street, but the moment the government starts targeting a specific individual, it gets more tricky. I'm not sure a warrant is needed in each an every instance, but there does need to be some check and balance to ensure there is a legitimate law enforcement purpose.

Mark Brudz
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How Howard is that harassment? Police do stake outs all the time, they use hand held video cameras, still cameras etc as matter of routine.

The common denominator is suspicion. Now, the proposal in front of the council is the purchase of one camera, which is not permanent. Day to day use simply for the sake of resource distribution is most likely going to be on certain streets based on complaint data. What if the complaint data begins to center around one house, one apartment building or one particular business?

Pointing that camera toward that house, apartment building or business would not only be well with in the law, but actually prudent so long as not placed with in that house. It is absolutely no different than a stake out based on citizen reports.

There is a huge difference between pointing that camera toward a house during an investigation compared to pointing it there because someone wants to. If a unusually high amount of complaints are generated toward a particular property, so long as no camera is placed on the property without warrant, pointing it toward that same property is markedly different. It is plain view and absolutely no different than a 24/7 stake out.

I challenge you or anyone else for that matter to present one, just one court decision where photo or video taken by a stake out team obtaining photos or videos of the outside of a property was ruled as unconstitutional or a violation of rights in anyway. I doubt that anyone could, because it is clearly a well established and sometimes routine act of sound police work.

A far different cry than inside one's property.

Many investigations of drug trafficking begin with surveillance of drug houses after citizen complaints, and almost all that surveillance is presented to judge with photos and video taken by surveillance teams, what difference is there in parking a car down the street with camera armed detectives or a camera mounted on a telephone pole pointing at the same house, absolutely none

I am not all saying that permanent camera's pointed at specific properties is prudent, but I am saying in specific cases and certain circumstances temporary placement is, and those circumstances do not require a warrant and are not an invasion of privacy and does not constitute harassment.

david spaulding
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back to the OP, if one park is closed due to vandalism and discarded
drug paraphernalia, then close any and all parks that fall into a similar situation....

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