Civil Liberties Union investigating Saratoga sidewalk sitting ban


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York Civil Liberties Union has confirmed it’s looking into Saratoga’s new ban of sitting on the sidewalks.

Taking a seat on the sidewalks of Saratoga sidewalks has only been against the law for about four months, but that’s all the time it took to face some fallout.

The New York Civil Liberties Union recently announcing they feel the law is discriminatory. In a statement, they say:

“Courts have long recognized the importance of public streets and sidewalks as forums for free speech and peaceable assembly, and this ordinance infringes on those fundamental rights. Homelessness is a tragedy, not a crime. We are looking into the situation.”

“This doesn’t surprise me, I had problems with the ordinance from the start,” Saratoga Mayor Joanne Yepsen said.

Mayor Yepsen was the only person on the city council to vote the ordinance down. With city hall being closed for the Columbus Day holiday, she says she supports the Civil Liberties Union’s investigation.

“As the mayor of the city, I would be more than happy to speak with the New York Civil Liberties Union at any point in time to answer any questions. I certainly hope we’ll continue to have open communications on this topic,” Yepsen said.

A handful of people and business owners downtown, who support the sidewalk sitting ordinance, say it’s cut down on an aggressive panhandling and vagrancy problem and also helped clear obstructions. Nobody wanted to go on camera to defend the regulation.

Others we spoke with say they feel the law is discriminatory and it’s about time the ordinance is challenged.

“If it was me sitting here reading this book, for instance, I don’t think anyone would bother me at all. I do think they’re looking for stereotyped people and making the move against them,” John Seneta said.

There are exceptions to the ordinance, you can sit on the sidewalk during parades and special events downtown. However, on any other ordinary day, you could be fined.

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