New lights put boccie rollers in the dark

In Little Italy, city turned them off after complaints

May 06, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

It was getting too dark for Little Italy's boccie rollers to play their game on the city's Stiles Street courts late into the night. The lights weren't bright enough anymore, with leaves from the court's trees casting shadows all over the place.

So they installed brighter ones.

The lights have shattered a relative peace that has long existed among neighbors in this corner of Baltimore.

Put up without a permit or permission, the glare from the lights was so strong that one neighbor had to staple black trash bags over her 10-year-old son's window so he could sleep at night. Patrons at Da Mimmo Restaurant next door refused to sit at certain seats in the bar and dining room because of the brightness.

Saturday evening, after the boccie rollers refused to turn the lights off when asked by police Friday night and would not comply with a city order not to turn them on, a city worker padlocked the light box until things can be sorted out this week.

"I can guarantee you there's nothing wrong with those lights," said Joseph A. Scalia, president of the Little Italy Bocce Rollers Association and a city inspector before he retired 20 years ago. He said he didn't think the group needed permission to add the new lights, and objected to the city cutting access to lights that have been there for more than a decade.

Reginald Scriber, ombudsman for the city's Department of Housing, who did the padlocking, said the new lights were not approved by the city and are too bright. They are disturbing the businesses and residents on High Street, he said. He said he hopes to work out a solution as early as today, but said they will have to be dimmed.

"Certainly the boccie court is a wonderful amenity in Little Italy," said Deputy Mayor Laurie B. Schwartz. But, she said, "it's got to be a balance."

Tonight, boccie is on the agenda of a rally for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who officially announced her bid for governor yesterday. She is scheduled to appear at a spaghetti dinner event at the Little Italy Lodge, though boccie at 8 p.m. could be out of the question.

Mary Ann Cricchio, owner of Da Mimmo, also lives next to the court. She was the one who complained to the city about the lights, which she said were disturbing the financial health of her business and the health of her son, who was having trouble sleeping.

"They've been fine for 10 years," she said of the lights. "All of a sudden there are stadium-type lights. They shoot directly across the court and into my son's bedroom window and directly into the restaurant."

Aside from the nuisance, Cricchio said she is upset with the unneighborly way the whole thing was done. In the summer, movies are shown outside her restaurant Friday nights. Things like that, she said, take consultation with the Little Italy Community Organization or the Little Italy Restaurant Association, of which she is president.

"Before you do anything in Little Italy, you bring it to the association and have it approved by the neighbors," she said.

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