Volume 75, Number 17 | September 14 - 20, 2005

Parks does a 180 on undercover skateboarder tickets

By Lincoln Anderson

Like a skateboarder doing a 180-degree spin, the Parks Department decided that the costly summonses issued to 13-year-old Andre Stoltzfus in Union Square two months ago by undercover Park Enforcement Patrol officers should be dropped. Kevin Jeffrey, Parks Department deputy commissioner of public programs — who oversees PEP officers, Park Rangers and communications — told The Villager Parks would not press the summonses on Sept. 6 before a judge at the Environmental Control Board, where such tickets are adjudicated.

On July 21, a crying Stoltzfus was surrounded by beefy PEP officers, who took his skateboard — with one of them reportedly saying he would give it to his own kid — and was almost forced into a van and handcuffed, all for the violation of skateboarding in the park.

An angry Robert Peters, Stoltzfus’s father, at that time told The Villager his son had received two summonses, one for $1,000, the other for $100 — and said the PEP’s “should be looking for terrorists with bombs in their backpacks instead of kids on skateboards.”

However, explaining the summonses, Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey said they were actually for $50 and $250 — if the payments were mailed in. Jeffrey said the $100 and $1,000 written on the summonses were the maximum fines Stoltzfus faced if he and his parents chose instead to go before an E.C.B. judge. (The Parks Department faxed copies of the summonses to The Villager verifying that both amounts were written on them.) Jeffrey said E.C.B. tends to fine the maximum amount.

“We made a recommendation to E.C.B. that they dismiss this,” Jeffrey said. “I did that personally. And they take our recommendations seriously.”

Stoltzfus had been previously warned about skateboarding at Union Square, which was the reason for the high fines, Jeffrey said.

Last week, Carli Smith, a Parks spokesperson, confirmed the summonses had been dismissed. “We asked them not to pursue it, and that was the case, based on our request,” she said.

Ultimately, Jeffrey said, they cut Stoltzfus some slack.

“I think I can speak for the agency. We’re not certain enforcement is the right route to take,” Jeffrey said. He said he’s in the process of getting Stoltzfus back his skateboard, and also hopes to involve him in planning some skateboard parks the department is designing.

“I think we’ve figured out how to make the best out of all this,” Jeffrey said. “He’s a good kid. I actually think he’s going to be very helpful. He’s going to bring a new perspective to our design table.”

The deputy commissioner said Parks is not anti-skateboarding, but there are places to do it and not to do it. Union Square — which has new steps and rails that can be chipped by street-style skating tricks — is one of the latter. “No Skateboarding” signs are posted, but may be a bit high up, Jeffrey conceded. Yet, he said there is no plan to discontinue use of undercover PEP’s.

Rebecca Stoltzfus, Andre’s mother, speaking before the dismissal, said, “[Jeffrey] told me not to worry about it. They’re trying to get his skateboard back. We have talked and I’m very impressed with the way Parks has handled this.”

Rebecca said she felt a bit guilty she didn’t ask about the status of the summonses issued to some of Andre’s older skateboarder friends that same day. Andre was the youngest and that may have won him some sympathy from Parks, she said. Parks did not immediately respond to questions regarding the other skateboarders who received summonses.

Andre’s mother said she learned a lot about skateboarding culture through the whole process; Steve Rodriguez of 5Boro Skateboards has offered to give Andre a new skateboard.

“My concern is we find a way for the skateboarders and everybody else to use the parks together,” she said.

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