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Farmingdale weighs skating ban on 2 roads

Three skateboarders enjoy the short hill on Fairview

Three skateboarders enjoy the short hill on Fairview Road in Farmingdale. (Sept. 20, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Rob Mantooth and friends can be found most temperate afternoons on a Farmingdale hill widely known as a skateboarders' hangout.

After strapping on their helmets and pulling on gloves fortified with plastic on the palms to prevent scrapes, they ride their longboards down Fairview Road, wheels whizzing along the pavement.

"Our group of friends doesn't like to be inside. We're trying to stay physical," said Mantooth, 20, of Farmingdale. "I don't understand what we're doing wrong."

Village officials are weighing a skating ban on Fairview Road and Yoakum Street, both residential streets, with violators facing $100 in fines. The village board is to discuss the dangers of the hill at a public hearing Monday at Village Hall.

Skaters travel at high speeds down the "steep incline" of Lenox Hill, and disaster is imminent amid the through traffic, blind turns and cars pulling out of driveways, Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.

"I honestly believe they can reach speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, and the cars can't see them," he said last week. "It's only a matter of time. Someone's going to get hurt."

The proposed law lists skating on the two short village streets as unlawful and makes it a violation for parents and others "to aid, abet or assist . . . in the violation of this section."

"We're not concerned about the kids skateboarding on normal, everyday streets," Ekstrand said. "It's a safety issue, and a safety issue only."

The chances of accidents are greater in the fall, with the twilight sun impairing the vision of skaters and drivers, he said.

Mantooth and other skaters plan to attend Monday's hearing to fight the ban.

"We try to stay as safe as we can," Chris Abel, 19, of Farmingdale, said, adding that he wears safety gear, stops skating on Fairview before it hits high-traffic Melville Road, and doesn't skate at night. "This is one of the biggest and, honestly, one of the safest hills in Farmingdale."

Abel said he has never suffered anything beyond scrapes and wondered why the village doesn't instead concentrate on penalizing speeding drivers.

He said skating is a healthy hobby for young residents who might otherwise be drinking.

Anthony Chille, 19, of Farmingdale, said he has skated down the hill with a GPS device attached to his longboard to measure speed.

He has never traveled faster than 28 mph, he said, less than the village's maximum speed limit of 30 mph.

Some Fairview Road residents said they've become used to the skaters. Others agreed with village officials that conditions are unsafe.

Mary Joseph, 67, said skaters sometimes jump into her garden to stop themselves from speeding into Melville Road.

"Sometimes there's a car coming, and they [the drivers] stop and they yell at them," she said. "Someone could easily die."

She said skaters have been using the hill as a hangout for decades. "It's very dangerous."

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