SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Young men crowded into town hall on Tuesday night to call foul on officials for effectively squeezing them off the town’s basketball courts.
“We just want to play basketball!” resident Ben Saks said.
“I feel that taking these courts down left a black eye on the community,” Tom Mateer added.
For more than a year, basketball players in Springfield Township have been sidelined, forced onto a half court because the town took down hoops at four different parks after neighbors complained about rowdy behavior, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
“We got out-of-towners coming here and just me going to the car with my daughters or even taking them for a walk, I got the finger,” Springfield resident Valerie Ahrens told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan on Tuesday.
“Thirty guys hanging around urinating on my front lawn,” resident Bob Thompson added.
“One night there was 38 people there screaming and yelling! I asked why did I move here?” Sue Bonkowski added.
But a lot of the young people in town said these claims are exaggerated, and now they’re putting on the full-court press to get their hoops back. They’ve launched a Facebook page and they’re venting their frustrations, concerned that people who live around these courts are trying to keep people from other communities out, igniting cries of racism because many of the players are black or Hispanic.
“They see outsiders coming in here and don’t see the changing demographics of our town,” Stephen Sussman said.
“If you looked at me right now out on the basketball court, would you be able to identify me as an out-of-towner?” Justin Grant said.
For Kevin Schweikert, it’s the only place he can practice his game before he starts his freshman year of high school next week. He said he’s looking to make the basketball team and since the half-courts lead to crowded courts he’s often forced to sit it out.
“They just got a brand new turf field. You can’t put up a hoop?” Schweikert said.
Sussman said neighborhood soccer moms cause some of the mess but no one has blamed them.
“They park wherever they want, their kids urinate in the bushes,” Sussman told Sloan.
Laurel Park has the only remaining full-size court in Springfield and it looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Despite the pleas on Tuesday night, the town has refused to budge, saying that the parks were never meant to house basketball courts in the first place.
Do you think the residents were right to complain, or do you think the hoops should have been left alone? Share your thoughts below…