ITHACA, N.Y. — Custodians from the Greater Ithaca Activities Center looked up at the shattered backboard Tuesday, shaking their heads as they swept up glass from underneath the Court St. hoop for the second time this year.

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The court, which is dedicated to Melvin L. Bell, an Ithaca High School graduate and All-American who died in 1990, has been a popular spot since it was renovated by NYSEG in 2014. But the same backboard has been shattered twice since August, frustrating those who frequent the court and puzzling the community.

(Left: Broken backboard in August 2015, courtesy of Rakim Slaughter) (Right: Shattered backboard Dec. 25, courtesy of Dequan Calloway)

Officer Jamie Williamson of the Ithaca Police Department said the most recent vandalism is under investigation and encouraged anyone with knowledge of the incident to contact the department, noting that the court is next to Beverly J. Martin Elementary School.

Common Council member Seph Murtagh—who represents Ithaca’s second ward, where GIAC and the court are—said the broken backboard was “incredibly unfortunate.”

“Especially with the new court there, it’s been such a hotspot with the whole neighborhood and the summer league,” Murtagh said. “I don’t know who would do that.”

“Someone who doesn’t want the community to succeed”

Karim Lee, a senior at Ithaca High School who frequently plays basketball at the GIAC court, said it was frustrating to have to only play on one half of the court this summer while GIAC replaced the backboard, and was upset when the backboard was shattered again last week.

(Shattered backboard being cleaned up, Dec. 29 / Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs)

“It’s frustrating because I play ball, and they just put the court there,” Lee said. “Knowing people are destroying it already, it’s disrespectful.”

Jordan Ayers, a junior who plays varsity basketball at IHS, said he thought the backboard must have been broken by “someone who doesn’t want to see the community succeed.”

“I just got so mad because I literally went there every day after work and played ball in the summer,” Ayers said. “To see someone take advantage of something that everyone likes to do in the community, it takes away something fun.”

The same backboard was previously shattered in August.

Ayers, Lee, and a GIAC custodian who asked that his name not be used all said they had heard rumors that someone shot the backboard with a BB gun in August, thinking that the board would not break. Officer Williamson said the police department could not confirm that rumor, and said the August shattering was not reported to police.

Lee said that while some people may be wary of being under surveillance, adding video cameras to the court might discourage future vandals.

“Some people say it would be better to have cameras around the court, some people are nervous about being watched 24/7, but that might be a step to stop [the vandalism],” Lee said.

While GIAC does have surveillance cameras, none are trained on the court, according to Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, deputy director of GIAC.

McBean-Clairborne said the most immediate issue is encouraging people to take care of property that is designed to be enjoyed by the community.

“The big thing is really just asking the community to be mindful—respect property that is there for their use,” McBean-Clairborne said.

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Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs is an intern with the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at