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Long IslandNassau

Clash over proposed Farmingdale skating ban

Farmingdale's Village Board was to discuss the dangers of skateboarding on Fairview Road and Yoakum Street Monday night. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (Oct. 1, 2012)

More than 50 skaters -- some in suits and others sporting baggy shorts, tattoos and piercings -- lined the Farmingdale Village boardroom.

Narrowly outnumbering their nonskating neighbors on Monday night, they wanted to know why village elders are considering a skating ban on two steep village streets that have been a thrill center for generations of residents.

And they had some seniors on their side.

"They've been using that hill since the '20s for skating, sleds and wagons, and all of a sudden -- after 85 years -- we're going to outlaw it?" asked Nick Ezzo, 89.

Farmingdale trustees postponed a vote on the proposed skating ban, but not before Monday's public hearing grew into an hours-long debate over individual rights, public safety and government oversight.

A bill introduced last month would ban skating on Fairview Road and Yoakum Street, where for years skaters have used the 120-foot drop from Lenox Hill, the village's highest point, to reach speeds of 40 mph, according to Mayor Ralph Ekstrand. He said during the summer that it was "only a matter of time" before someone was hurt.

The bill would mandate $100 fines for violators, with enforcement by Nassau County police.

While the bill refers to children, some of the skaters who testified Monday were men in their 20s and 30s with jobs and children. "Next year, are you guys going to say, 'Should we ban it in all of Farmingdale?' " asked a skater who said he is a single father from Massapequa. "Next year, maybe five years from now, are you guys going to say I can't even skate?"

The skaters said they wear helmets and pads on the street and worked out a system to warn each other about approaching cars via cellphone.

But Joe Diurno, who lives on Fairview Road, spoke of the daily terror of pulling out of his driveway: "The worst nightmare in the world is for me to hit a kid coming down that hill. The law should protect me, and it should protect that kid from doing that."

Farmingdale banned skating in neighborhood "pocket parks" about two years ago, over concerns that skate wheels were damaging flagstone and brick.

Ekstrand said in an interview Tuesday that he came into the meeting prepared to pass the ban, but changed his mind. "The reason is, I heard from the other side, from the kids."

When, at the end of the meeting, he asked delegations of skaters and skating opponents to meet at village hall Oct. 22 to find a solution that would leave "safety addressed and fun not severely limited," the crowd applauded.

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