Pittsfield Merchants Say Skateboarders Risky NuisanceBy Joe Durwin
Special to iBerkshires
03:16PM / Monday, September 19, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local business owners are grumbling over what they say is a growing problem with skaters and bikers in the city's downtown.
Last week, several downtown business owners, employees and residents addressed the City Council at the Sept. 13 meeting with their concerns about skateboarding and bicycling on North Street.
Those present complained of increasing issues with these activities over the past few months, which they attributed in part to the construction taking place downtown. Issues raised included unsafe riding resulting in near injuries for elderly pedestrians and customers to their stores, as well as numerous complaints of large gangs of youth blocking or riding on North Street sidewalks, executing tricks on the artifacts of construction, and other general nuisance behavior.
Joe Torra, owner of Independent Mobility and Deirdre's, both on North Street, said he frequently encounters problems with skateboarding and bicycling on downtown sidewalks.
"We have the ordinance in effect, we have the signage in effect, what we need to have is a little bit of enforcement in effect," he said.
John Valente, manager of the Beacon Cinema, also spoke in favor of increasing enforcement of ordinance 132, which prohibits such activity. "My experience has been that downtown streetscape project has been a sort of open invitation, and has become part of their regular routine for stunt riding."
Other downtown businesses represented included Great Gifts and More.
Some suggested that there may be a generational component to the perception of the extremity of the problem. Katie Schott, an employee of the popular downtown hub Dottie's Coffee Lounge, when asked about the issue, said simply, "The more the merrier!"
Attorney Joanna Arkema, who works downtown, said she, too, felt the increased crowd of "biker boys" livens things up in downtown.
Bill Whittaker, co-owner of The Garden skate shop on North Street, also had a different take on the perceived increase of this activity on North Street.
"One of the reasons, I'd say the biggest reason, is that we don't have a skate park. It's not like the kids who play baseball, who have a dozen places to go. There hasn't been anywhere for them to go all summer. Once we have a skate park again, they'll go there."
Indeed, more than one person commented after Tuesday night's meeting that they recalled this being an issue a decade or so ago, before the construction of the skate park at the Pittsfield Common. The park was demolished last November as part of a $4.6 million renovation of the Common.
A new, redesigned skate park will be opening this fall at the corner of Appleton and East streets, near Pittsfield High School. Construction was slated to begin last Thursday, but was delayed as the contractor completed another project in Chatham, N.Y. As of today, the project has not yet broken ground.
Whittaker said the new park was expected to take only about six weeks to complete.