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Shoo! Van Nest woman strung up on hanging sneakers

Bronx Times
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Sonia Pichardo has tried calling 311. She has harangued ConEd employees on their morning coffee break.

She has complained to local politicians and to the Fire Department.

But this Van Nest mother of two’s effort to take down a single pair of strung-up sneakers drooping from power lines near her home on Holland Avenue is stuck in a knot.

“They are a black eye. It makes the whole neighborhood look bad, but no one will do anything about it,” Pichardo complained.

The silver Nike high-ankle sneakers have dangled by their laces for months from two wires snaking across Morris Park Avenue at Holland Avenue. The crossway will be on public display Sunday, Oct. 13 for the annual Bronx Columbus Day Parade.

“Everybody’s talking about stopping violence, protecting our children,” she said. “But to have these sneakers hanging in such a public place shows that people can just do whatever they want.”

But other Bronxites aren’t so sure what Pichardo is so strung out about.

The tradition of teenagers tossing their worn-down sneakers on power lines and cable wires for fun dates back generations, said Joe McManus, a local civic leader and Democratic Party state committeeman in the 80th assembly district.

McManus used to twirl his own sneakers on the last day of the school year as a kid in Ridgewood, Brooklyn. He’d take his used-up Converses, which back then cost $2, and tie them together. The trick, he said, was crafting a tight enough knot while leaving the laces loose enough to give space to catch on the wire. Then his friends would compete to see who could land their sneakers first.

“At the end of the school year, you’d throw your shoes away,” he said. It’s an innocent thing, a harmless game.”

Some urban myths suggest that sneakers on wires denote a drug hotspot or a gang’s symbol, but there is no evidence to support this.

Still, Pichardo said that there were no sneakers on wires when she moved into Van Nest eight years ago and is concerned that the hanging Nikes signal a shift toward more crime and a lower standard of living.

“We wanted to move into a quiet neighborhood. We didn’t used to have these. We don’t have to start having them,” she said.

As tricky as it is to pin down the reasons behind the hanging sneakers, getting rid of them may be even trickier.

City agencies have no consensus for who is responsible for sneaker removal, said Jeremy Warneke, district manager of Community Board 11.

Warneke said that he’s helped remove sneakers in the past by asking the Fire Department for a favor, and that he’d look into the hanging Nikes on Morris Park and Holland.

Pichardo would be relieved to see the knotty sneakers gone.

“We can all agree on standards we want to have as a community,” she said.

But McManus said that expending any city effort to deal with the Nikes would be a waste of time.

“Who cares? This is nothing,” he said. “Get over it.”

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394
Updated 3:02 pm, October 17, 2013
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