Banning Skateboarding on sidewalks in Village of Lancaster
LANCASTER Several Central Avenue business owners, and even a business patron, came forward during Monday night’s Village of Lancaster Board meeting to support Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe owner Tracy Diegelman’s claims of the safety and destruction that has been caused by the biking, skateboarding, and loitering throughout the village district. An issue that seems to have divided the village and created quite an uproar between the village board, business owners, and youths who bike and skateboard in the district. A possible solution proposed at the meeting was to ban skateboarding on sidewalks. The details of the proposal are still being worked out and whether the ban would affect the entire village or just the Central Avenue Business District is unclear.
Speaking at the meeting, Owner of Mimi’s Central Perk Café Sherri Sikora said the skateboarders are a little loud in front of her store and sometimes they lay down in the middle of the sidewalk making it difficult for pedestrians to walk by.
“Some are smoking and some are not it doesn’t matter, because it is really upsetting to my patrons and myself,” said Sikora. “I love this village and I think something needs to be done about it by posting ‘no loitering’ signs.”
Ed Church, owner of Eddie Ryan’s Restaurant, said he has addressed this issue at a previous meeting regarding the skateboarders and bicyclists and the problems they have caused on Central Avenue.
“On any given day of the week, there are anywhere from five to 20 bicyclists between my building and Rite Aid,” said Church. “Several tenants of the Towers won’t come into the restaurant anymore because they’re afraid. One lady got her cane kicked out from underneath her. They have nicked and scratched my car personally.”
Church added he was told to call the police and just in the past four to five months alone his restaurant has made 20 to 30 phone calls.
“But the police have no jurisdiction,” said Church. “They said they can’t do anything. I understand the kids have no place to bicycle, and they are trying to build a bike park, … these kids are super disrespectful to the patrons and the people on the street.”
Church said the kids have sworn at him when asked to move and is concerned about safety and liability of the business owners if somebody gets hurt on their property.
“If it were me I would say get rid of bicyclists and skateboarders under the age of 18,” Church suggested to the board.
Village of Lancaster Trustee Edward Marki expressed that sometimes when they hear these complaints it is referenced that all the kids are problems, but that is not the case.
“No one here is against the children,” said Julia Corallo, owner of Happy Tails Doggie Daycare. “We’re not here to say they are delinquents,” raising the question where are the parents? “It’s a dangerous situation for skateboarders to be going down the street when we have older customers, and no one has been harmed yet, but what if someone is harmed. I have several customers that if they get knocked over they’re going to be in the hospital for a while.”
Marki asked if the business owners have taken their concerns to the town board seeing that the police force is under their rule.
“We are pro-business,” said Marki. “We want village businesses to thrive. There is a limit to want we can do.”
Susan Foster, owner of Today’s Dog, said the removal of the table in front of her business has helped a little, which is a whole other problem, but related.
“Why are these kids here,” questioned Foster. “They are not patronizing a single business on Central Avenue.”
Village of Lancaster Attorney Arthur Herdzik stated to Foster that a person has the freedom to walk up and down a street even if they are not patronizing a business and asked what solution they are proposing, which resulted in proposing a local law banning skateboards on sidewalks.
“There’s an argument they are dangerous to pedestrians, and they might cause unnecessary wear and tear on the surface of the property,” said Herdzik. “There are things we can look into.”
Due to Mayor William G. Cansdale’s absence at the meeting, Deputy Mayor Paul Maute said he would call the chief of police and Supervisor Dino Fudoli to see what can be done. There was also a meeting between the board and business owners Tuesday evening to continue to work on this issue.
“We are trying to address the situation,” stated Trustee Kenneth O’Brien to business owners. “We are trying to accommodate you as well as trying to find an alternative for them.”
Diegelman said why can’t the kids pick up their skateboards and walk with them or walk their bikes and don’t loiter through the village? Marki agreed that the kids should be doing that.
“The kids are great kids,” said Diegelman. “They come from great families. I’m not saying they are bad kids. I just don’t want them to get hurt.”
Jerry Kowalski, manger of the Rite Aid for the last 11 years, also said the skateboarders are a major problem.
“The senior citizens are afraid to walk across because of these kids riding their bikes and skateboards up and down the street. As far as the kids go, I won’t say that all the kids are bad,” he said.
However, Kowalski has spent close to $1,000 since May replacing signs such as “parking” and “wheel chair accessible,” signs which are required to be there by law and have been damaged by kids. Also, the “Welcome to the Village of Lancaster” sign on the corner of Central and Pleasant avenues has been damaged three times in the last five years.
“This summer has been bad,” said Kowalski. “It has been very difficult. There are times where some of the kids threaten the senior citizens to buy them a pack of cigarettes or a six pack of beer or they will beat them up. We don’t want anything like that going on.”
Coming forward during the meeting a resident and patron of the Central Avenue businesses said from the perspective of someone who patronizes the businesses it is a problem.
“There were a group of 10 to 15 kids in front of the skateboard shop zipping passed us like we weren’t even there,” she stated. “I would never walk down that sidewalk by myself. I was scared. I have two sons that are teenagers. My husband and I are responsible parents; it just goes back to where are these parents?”
Marki said the board takes these concerns very seriously and they will continue to work on this situation.
“We can start making some laws about skateboarding, but there is nothing we can do overnight,” said Marki. “I can see this is a serious problem that has to be addressed.”
Also, while riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is not prohibited by New York statutes, some municipalities have passed ordinances prohibiting bicycle traffic on certain sidewalks, but it is expected that except for very young cyclists under parental supervision, sidewalks are not for bicycling. Herdzik said at the next board meeting he will have a proposed law banning skateboarding on sidewalks written up as per Maute’s request. The board does have to hold a public hearing on the law and residents can chose to speak for or against the law. There are plans to build a skate park which is a long term solution for the village. The next Village of Lancaster Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, in the Municipal Building Council Chambers, 5423 Broadway, in Lancaster.
By Jennifer Lysiak