Friday, May 14, 2010

Brooklyn Banks: The Fourth Ward Skateboard Park

video
an excerpt from the nytimes
To Fix Bridge, Skateboard Mecca May Be Lost
By JOHN BRANCH
To most people, the area under the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the shadows of the off ramps and against the hulking stone structure of the famous East River crossing, is not a place to stop. It is a place to leave.
It is a long, sloping plaza covered in smooth red brick, with a few trees stretching for rare beams of sunlight. Those who amble into this area generally are children passing to and from a nearby school, or misplaced tourists looking for the bridge’s pedestrian walkway to Brooklyn.
But for generations of skateboarders, and an increasing number of BMX bikers, the place carries an iconic name and a sacred meaning. It is the Brooklyn Banks. It is the place to go, to be, and to be seen.
“It’s the best skate park in the world, because it wasn’t supposed to be a skate park,” the professional skateboarder Mike Vallely said near the end of a popular YouTube video posted earlier this year to pay homage to the threatened Brooklyn Banks.
It is about to become little more than a construction zone during a four-year renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge. Any day now, a new fence will slice the Brooklyn Banks roughly in half, giving construction crews a staging area for trucks and equipment until 2014. Sometime this summer, the entire area will be closed off for about six months while an overhead ramp is painted, the city said.
Skateboarders are used to being displaced from public spaces. But the Brooklyn Banks has a decades-long history and a cultivated status as a sort of skating mecca. Besides, it was already saved once, with help from the city, only five years ago.
That was the last time Steve Rodriguez rode to the rescue. He has spent the past few months trying to do it again, making headway, thanks to city officials who see value in the Brooklyn Banks for skaters and bikers, but he is running out of time to keep them whole.
“I’m fine to close the Banks for six months to paint the overpass,” Rodriguez said. “But four years for staging? Come on.”
The plaza, officially unnamed (the transportation department, which oversees the area because of its proximity to the bridge, called it Red Brick Park in its latest news release), dates to about 1970, city officials said. It runs about the length of three city blocks along the northern flank of the bridge’s massive support, between Pearl Street and past Gold Street. On a map, the location falls under what looks like curly spaghetti: the swirl of ramps to and from the bridge.
By luck or serendipity, the plaza, built before the first wave of skateboarding’s craze arrived, came equipped with everything a street rider could want from a supersize playground: perfectly smooth, wave-shaped embankments (the banks) rising along the length of one side; walls, benches, stairways and granite tree boxes to perform tricks; pillars to climb against; and long stair rails to descend.

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