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Skateboarder safety an issue in Farmingdale

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.

Teens and older Farmingdale residents are at odds over safety measures for a skateboarding spot once dubbed "suicide hill," but seem to agree on one thing: No one wants a tragic traffic accident.

At a village forum Monday, Anthony Chille, 19, held up a skateboard and a longboard to help his fellow enthusiasts describe the difference. Longboards, their preference, are made for hills, not skate parks, they said.

"It's like stickball and baseball," Farmingdale trustee Bill Barrett suggested as an analogy. He was a skater "30 years and 40 pounds ago," he said.

About 10 skaters who favor the 120-foot drop of Lenox Hill, where officials are considering a ban on the sport, and a dozen residents who contend serious injury is imminent among the mix of skaters, pedestrians and drivers exchanged ideas at Village Hall in a mostly civil manner.

The proposed ban is specifically for the whole of Yoakum Street and Fairview Road, both of which are on the hill.

Skaters offered as possible solutions restricted skating hours, mandatory helmet use and speed bumps to slow car traffic. Residents sought an alternative skating site, one woman recalling that Lenox Hill was known as "suicide hill" and most agreeing there are worse hobbies.

Farmingdale officials said there have been no deaths or serious injuries on the hill, where skaters would face a $100 fine under the proposed ban. Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said safety, not skaters' noise or trash, and accident prevention are the concern.

Lenox Hill resident Greg Menig, 37, commended Chille and his friends for taking the initiative to fight the ban, but said it's impossible for skaters to stop in time to avoid cars.

"It's a bad recipe," Menig said.

Joe Diurno, 61, read off a list of skater fatalities nationwide to evidence the sport's dangers.

"They need a place where they get their skateboarding in a safe environment, not a public street," he said.

Injury or death in Farmingdale could result in legal troubles for the village, he said.

"All we're trying to do is ride longboard, get exercise and be safe about it," said Roland Iadanza, 19, of Massapequa.

Chris Abel, 19, of Farmingdale, imagined a freshly paved hill for longboarders in "the middle of nowhere" without a car in sight.

Ekstrand said he would contact Bethpage State Park about the possibility of a hill being sited there for longboarding. He said the discussion would continue at the Nov. 5 meeting.

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