Residents are raising concerns about the removal of basketball hoops from Springfield parks. But officials say they were removed because of citizen concerns in the first place.
Recently, basketball hoops were taken down at several township parks. Officials say the move was prompted by complaints of residents living nearby the parks and playgrounds.
“The rims were taken down at multiple parks based on longstanding neighbor complaints regarding trash in the parks, use of the courts before dawn and after dark, ineffective rule enforcement and unruly responses by some players when neighbors tried to talk to them,” Springfield Mayor Hugh Keffer said in an email. “Neighbors were tired of calling the police every night and some suggested they would take matters into their own hands.”
Keffer said officials asked for the hoops to come down after other tactics proved ineffective.
“I thought posting rules would cure the problem, [giving] notice to players and enforcement clarity for the police, but that didn't happen,” Keffer said. “So last week, the committee asked for the rims to come down until spring when we'll see if we can get something manageable going.”
He added: “It is unfortunate the situation got to a point where the burden of living next to a park was too much and I hope we can do something constructive in the spring when things have calmed down.”
The move has confused and irked a number of Springfield residents, and former officials are questioning the legality of the action. In addition, several young residents have insinuated the move was driven by racism, alleging that the neighbors are complaining because black youths use the courts.
"People have complained in our town about how kids of a certain race are playing basketball at the town parks or designated areas to play outside their homes,” Springfield Patch reader Margit Landa said in an email, adding that she found the move to be “unbelievably racist” as well as unfair.
Another Patch reader also identified race as a driving factor in the decision to take down the hoops.
“It’s extremely racist that people are complaining that kids of all ages of a different race are making ‘too much noise’ or just hanging around in designated areas,” Dayton student Melanie Rossomando said in an email. “It’s not just one race going to participate in these pick up games of basketball, it’s everyone I know in the town. Also, if someone bought a home near a park, than they should expect to here [sic] noise around there.”
Former Springfield mayor Ziad Shehady, who is currently running for reelection to the Township Committee, said he was surprised by the announcement.
“My jaw dropped on Tuesday when I heard Rich [Huber] announce that he had directed Recreation to take the hoops and nets down after meeting with the Recreation Committee,” Shehady said in an email. He questioned the authority of the recreation to take down the hoops, saying the group is an advisory committee. “The decision to take down the hoops was obviously made behind closed doors without public notice or public hearing.”