By Carol Tannenhauser
The federal government may be gridlocked, but Community Board 7 is working just fine.
Everyone present at Monday night’s Parks & Environment Committee meeting, including the landscape architect representing the Parks Department; neighborhood parents and children; seasoned skateboarders; and committee members who unanimously passed a resolution to approve it, were clearly pleased with the revised design of the new skatepark that will replace the 20-year-old one in Riverside Park at West 109th street.
All, that is, except for one elderly gentleman, who said, “I’m not interested in these arrested adolescents who don’t want to move on to real lives! Teenagers are going to emulate them. They’re going to try to get in that big bowl that goes up 11’…”
That’s right; the new skatepark will now “go to vert,” which means, at a certain point, all four wheels of a skater’s board are on a plane perpendicular to the ground. You can see the full plan here (pdf); the slide below shows the new bowl. Click to enlarge it.
The existing park, though deteriorating and outdated, has an 11’ element, which is why the skaters, known as the “Riverside Skatepark Coalition,” were so dismayed when a scaled-down version was presented at a May 16th committee meeting. (We covered their objections here.) They appeared at the full board meeting on June 7th to protest. The board heard them and sent the design back to committee. In less than three weeks, Parks and its designer and consultant considered the skaters’ input and came back with a design that had the whole room (except for the elderly gentleman) smiling.
The new park will replace one that is beloved by skaters from the neighborhood and the greater skateboarding community, because of its connection to the legendary UWS skater and force behind the building of the original park, Andy Kessler, who died in 1994 from an allergic reaction to a wasp’s sting, at the age of 48. Many attended Monday’s meeting not only to learn the Park Department’s response to their input but to honor Mr. Kessler’s vision and memory. Ian Clarke, spokesman for the Coalition, leaned against a concrete column, smiling.
One committee member said, “We should all join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Another called the meeting “a love fest for Margaret Bracken,” Riverside Park’s landscape architect, who shepherded the design from its inception to this preliminary approval.
“Our goal is to be a good, local, neighborhood skatepark,” said Bracken (pictured at left), with a charming Scottish brogue and obvious passion for Riverside Park. “I feel very, very strongly that we do want to be inclusive. If we can provide for the more experienced skaters, while not disenfranchising or excluding the younger ones, I think it will only make the environment better for local kids. There’s a real social aspect to skateparks. And there’s nothing wrong with different age ranges mixing – younger skaters will watch older and learn.”
“Beginners skate with us,” a man in a “Vert Alive!” tee shirt said.
Eleven-year-old Max, up way past his bedtime, summarized the skaters’ feelings about the new design: “I like how it’s higher.”
The existing skatepark will remain open through the summer. Click here for hours and regulations.