By Brendan McHugh
In an attempt to get themselves off the streets, four skateboarders came to the parks committee of Community Board 8 last week asking for the area’s first skateboarding park.
“We’d have a place to skate and we’d be out of your way,” said Michael Roberts, a Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy graduate.
They offered the committee pictures of themselves skating at public places as evidence. One was outside Bronx County Courthouse, another in front of RKA, yet another down the block from two of the community board members, and even one right outside the board office.
They managed to win over support from the board fairly easily. The four skaters discussed skate park aesthetics, safety concerns and revenue for the community.
“Skaters need to eat,” Michael Alfano, an eleventh grader at KRA, chimed in, saying putting in a park in the neighborhood will help out the local businesses.
Jump below for the full story.Two areas stood out to the community board as idea for a skateboarding park. One was near Bailey Playground, which is near the Major Deegan Expressway and away from residential buildings, meaning the noise from the skateboards wouldn’t be a problem. The other option is in the southwest corner of Van Cortlandt Park. With the elevated No. 1 train right by and a busy intersection at Broadway and Van Cortlandt Park South, noise again wouldn’t be a factor.
Both options also provide commercial corridors close by for the hungry skateboarders.
In terms of safety, which the parks committee was concerned about, the four boarders made it very simple. Either they’re spread out through the community in random places getting hurt, or they’re at least always in the same place, around dozens of other skateboards who can call 9-1-1 if need be.
Van Cortlandt Park administrator Margot Perron added that skate parks without supervision—as this one is initially planned as such—are created safer, with less steep ramps.
The skateboarders said they’d like to see a plaza design, stating plazas are “aesthetically pleasing,” and better usable for them. With trees, benches, grass and other parks elements intertwined with the concrete ramps and other skateboarding elements, “plaza designs incorporates the best of both worlds,” said Wilfredo Suarez, of Mosaic Skate Gallery in Riverdale.
Parks committee chairman Bob Bender made note that this is just the first of many discussions the community will have before a skate park is up and running, but offered his support to the men in attendance.
Christina Taylor, the executive director for the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, said she had a past intern collect thousands of signatures from the community in support of a skate park. She added that City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell had offered to allocate funds for the construction of a park in the past.
According to Koppell’s office, he was ready to allocate $650,000 to $850,000, depending on the size of the park, last year. That would include equipment, safety surfacing, fencing, a drinking fountain and upgrade of the comfort station, if it is in Bailey Playground. However, because the parks department chose not to go forward with the project, Koppell would have to again allocate money in the future.
The skateboards also discussed national organizations that bring in money to skate parks, including foundations by pro skateboarders Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek and national chains such as Target and Subway.
“We don’t care if it’s called McDonalds Park, as long as it’s built right, we’ll be fine with it,” Roberts said.
Thomas Durham, a board member, applauded the idea, noting that teenagers have less and less options in the community.
“We’re losing things to do for teens in the area,” he said, noting the continual decrease in funding and services for community centers in Riverdale and Kingsbridge.