Neighbors in Albany's Arbor Hill were up in arms over the weekend after the city placed a dumpster in the middle of a popular basketball court.
Albany Police issued an advisory Friday evening: "Basketball Court Temporarily Closed." It read, "Please be advised that the basketball court located on Manning Boulevard near Lark Street is temporarily closed. The court is anticipated to reopened on Monday. "
But not everyone got the memo. One of the leaders of the Arbor Hill Youth Basketball League, which had scheduled games to be played at the court, spread word quickly via Facebook video streamed from the court: "Yeah, good afternoon everybody. I'm over here at the Arbor Hill Sports complex, and look at this nonsense here. We had games scheduled today for our kids and stuff and look at this. A big dumpster right in the center of the basketball court here."
More than 9,000 people have watched Patrick Robinson's video. "To add more insult to injury, they took the rims down. On both courts. Took the rims down."
The kids did get to play, at the nearby Arbor Hill Community Center.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s chief of staff Brian Shea admitted dropping the ball, telling the Times Union the decision to shut down the court should have been communicated better to the community.
Albany Police Department spokesman Steve Smith explains the dumpster was trucked in to prevent violence. He says organizers of the annual Joyce E. King Basketball Tournament failed to secure the necessary permit. "The police department tried to reach out to the promoter of this event several times, in an effort to meet with them to discuss security, to discuss police services that would be required for the event, and we never received a call back."
Smith says the promoter didn't show up for a scheduled meeting with police to discuss the event along with any police services or other security measures that would have been needed. He noted that the JEK Tournament has a history of violence. "There are very talented basketball players who come to this event. It's a great event and it has a great cause, but there have been people who have been shot. There have been people who have been stabbed. Police officers have recovered guns and other weapons at and other incidents related to ones in close proximity to this event in years past. This police department has an obligation for public safety and without having the conversation with the promoter to ensure that it was an event that would not result in violence and be the event that it is intended to be, without the necessary conversations with the history of violence either at that event or in the proximity of that event, our recommendation was to deny the permit."
Community activist Marlon Anderson believes the issue stirred up ill will. He suggests the basketball court could be put to better use: "How about let's have a job fair at the basketball court instead of having a basketball tournament. College fair, things of that nature. We have to focus and pick our battle better than the battles that we're choosing in this city, because the battles that we're choosing are not doing anything to advance either the racial issues in this city or the racial climate."
Smith says the city did remove the dumpster and the court is back in operation. “That was done on Sunday morning. The dumpster was taken away and the hoops were put back up.”
Sunday night, Robinson posted a new message to Facebook: "Everyone is upset and rightfully so, channel that Energy and head down to the next common council meeting."