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Neighbors denounce drug deals, fights, threats from park denizens

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NIVERVILLE — It was standing-room only at the Kinderhook Town Board meeting Monday, June 13, as a group of animated Niverville residents voiced concerns about ongoing nefarious, and possibly illegal activity in Kinderhook Town Park on Church Street.

More than a half-dozen residents of Church Street and the surrounding neighborhood gave specific examples of mostly teenagers who they said hang around the park at all times during the day and night, especially after the park officially closes at dusk. They accused the teens of brazenly buying and selling drugs in the park, which is right next door to Town Hall. They also said the teens have verbally threatened some residents.

“The kids are stupid,” said resident Lee Ann Brignull. “They stand right under the lights. We see money exchanged. We see drugs exchanged.”

“I know for a fact there is heroin in the park,” said another resident.

“We are sometimes afraid to leave our house because they are watching,” said resident Lauri Klotch. Her husband, Ray Klotch, added that at least one teen was paying attention to the cars he drives, asking why he never drives one particular car.

“There have been many problems after 2 a.m. this month —  they’ve been drinking and then throwing their beer cans,” said resident Michelle Graham, who also said she was receiving threatening phone calls in retaliation for reporting the incidents. “I have a son who is afraid to go to tennis lessons — in a park he’s been going to for years — because of the kids who hang out in the park now.”

The residents also complained that State Troopers stationed in Kinderhook were slow to respond to their complaints. Ms. Brignull and the Klotches said it took at least 45 minutes for police to arrive after they placed multiple calls about a large fight involving about eight people taking place in their front yards two weeks ago.

State troopers at the meeting said they would look into that particular incident and research how it was dispatched.

Residents asked whether police could patrol the area more frequently and if they could enforce a park curfew if one was implemented by the town.

“I don’t think we’ll ever have the manpower to have someone there all night,” said one trooper. But she added that Kinderhook was a busy area, and there are usually at least three troopers stationed in the town at any given time.

That statement did not seem to satisfy most of the residents.

“I know you [troopers] can’t be there all the time,” said one Church Street resident. “But one of us adults is going to go to jail eventually, because I’m going to bust someone’s kneecap while I’m trying to protect my home.”

Police said at least seven people had been arrested for trespassing in the park over the last two weeks. One state trooper said the town could help police enforce the trespassing rule by changing the wording on the sign posted at the park. Right now the sign states the park closes at sunset, which can be open to interpretation.

“Drawing up a sign that establishes a particular time the park is closed would help,” he said. “So when we go in there we can explain the issue.”

After residents spoke for nearly an hour Town Supervisor Pat Grattan assured them that he and the board were taking their complaints very seriously. He said there are three items related to the park that the town could research immediately: adopting a curfew law, changing the park sign by adding the specific hours the park is open and closed and establishing a neighborhood watch.

“I will have the town attorney look into those three things,” said Mr. Grattan.

Mr. Grattan added that the town will host a meeting at the town hall — with law enforcement present — to help start a neighborhood watch for the area of NIverville near the park.

Councilwoman Patsy Leader agreed to lead the currently-informal neighborhood watch committee, saying she had worked on a similar project for the Village of Kinderhook.

“We have to be stronger,” said Ms. Leader. “Stop showing you are afraid.”

In other business, the board:

*Informally agreed to seek out free assistance from the Kinderhook schools to update the town’s website, possibly having student web designers work on the project for school credit. The suggestion was made by Councilman Peter Bujanow, who said, “Our town’s website, is not as user-friendly as it could be, compared to other websites around the county.”

*Voted to authorize the Village of Kinderhook and the Fire Department to purchase gasoline from the town. This will allow them to purchase gas at a lower cost and to avoid paying retail taxes for the fuel.

*Voted unanimously to issue two $150,000 bonds so the town can purchase two new dump trucks, which Mr. Grattan called “the workhorses of the Highway Department.”

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