Community Board 7 Approves Skate Park Naming After Local Skateboarding Pioneer Andy Kessler

Andy Kessler skating in Asbury Park. Photo by Charlie Samuels.

By Alex Israel

Community Board 7, elected officials, and the skating community came together to support the naming of a renovated skate park in Riverside Park after beloved skateboarder Andy Kessler.

Kessler, born in Greece in 1961 and raised on the Upper West Side, was known as a leader in the skateboard community before his death from complications due to an allergic reaction to a wasp sting in 2009. He started skateboarding in Central Park in the 1970s, and was a key force in lobbying for, designing, and building Riverside Skate Park, the city’s first municipal skate park, which opened in the summer of 1995 at 108th Street.

A $2,867,000 capital project funded by the Borough President and City Council to renovate the skate park kicked off in May 2015, which some skateboarders protested at the time. Construction began four years later, and is expected to conclude in May 2020, with new skate elements, fencing, benches, picnic tables, and landscaping. According to Riverside Park’s website, before renovations began, it was “one of the very few vert skating spots throughout the five boroughs featuring a 10 foot wooden half pipe with vert as well as a mini half pipe, and quarter pipe.”

The final plans for the renovated skate park, set to open in May 2020.

During Community Board 7’s March full board meeting, the board passed a resolution in support of the park naming to commemorate Kessler, which has broad support from local elected officials including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Mark Levine, and Assemblymembers Linda Rosenthal and Danny O’Donnell.

Community Board 7 Second-Vice Chair Doug Kleiman, a lifetime Upper West Sider, said he knew Kessler as an acquaintance growing up. “He was really part of the neighborhood—I remember him [skating] at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and Sheep’s Meadow,” he said. “It kind of brings tears to my eyes, because I remember him fondly.”

Several members of the skating community showed up to the meeting in support of the renaming.

Kessler was a “true New Yorker,” according to artist and skateboarder Ivory Serra. “This is an opportunity to preserve a legacy,” he said.

Ian Clarke, a representative from the NYC Skate Coalition, spoke of Kessler’s legacy as New York City’s most prominent skateboarder, quoting Hall of Fame skateboarder Steve Austin: “Andy Kessler was a pioneer. His contributions came right from his heart for the love of skateboarding and for the city of New York. He continued until the day he died.”

Clarke and some other skateboarders had initially had reservations about some aspects of the plan for the park, but came around after further discussions with the city.

Aaron Aniton, a graphic designer, member of the NYC Skate Coalition, and volunteer with the Tony Hawk Foundation, excitedly filmed the board’s unanimous vote. “This is a big deal,” he said, thanking the elected officials who supported the renaming request. “It’s awesome to see the skateboard community and local government come together.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. ST says:

      I applaud the renovation. When I mentioned the park to a skateboarding neighbor a while back he replied that it was crummy so he wouldn’t skate there.
      One must ask, since it is in such an isolated location, how to keep kids safe there? Nowadays there are muggings of kids by other kids. Will the Parks Department or NYPD post personnel at the skatepark?

    2. Waters says:

      Andy ruled, this is great. Well deserved and good work by the crew.

    3. No dis to my ol’ buddy Andy but let’s get closer to the truth: Mullaly Park in the Bronx was the city’s first municipal skatepark in 1990. 108 is appropriately named after Andy Kessler.