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Grand Island Town Board: Plaza business wants panhandling addressed

Sat, Nov 23rd 2019 07:00 am

A Grand Island Plaza business is asking the Grand Island Town Board for help in addressing the issue of panhandlers.

Rachel Novelli, director of the Grand Island Dance Center, said this week her dance school in the plaza has had “two of our older girls approached and asked for money.”

“We were wondering what to do about it, so I went to the State Police and the sheriffs to find out what our options are,” Novelli said. “A police officer told me that there is no law against panhandling in the town of GI, but that we should call 911 every time we see a suspicious person, and they will send both the State Police and the sheriffs by to check on us and make sure everything is OK.”

Simple begging is speech protected by the First Amendment, though aggressive solicitation is not.

“I made up a sheet for my teachers and office staff telling them exactly what to do the moment they see anyone suspicious milling around outside the studio,” Novelli said.

“Since the weather turned cold, we haven’t seen anyone hanging around the plaza, but we wanted to be ready just in case,” she said.

Many of the students at the GI Dance Center are young children.

“I just wanted to be sure that our dancers and dance families are safe, and not being bothered when coming and going from the parking lot to our studio,” Novelli said.

Novelli said she has sent an email message to the Town Board regarding the matter.

“Hopefully they will address the panhandling law, or lack thereof in GI!” Novelli said.

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