2003-03-01 / Front Page

New Park Possible

By Brian Magoolaghan

New Park Possible
By Brian Magoolaghan

 Skater grabs air at park designed by John Woodstock. Photo taken from WoodstockSkateParks.com Skater grabs air at park designed by John Woodstock. Photo taken from WoodstockSkateParks.com

Rockaway could soon be the only Queens neighborhood to give refuge to one of the most shunned groups of modern society-skateboarders.

Preliminary plans for a skate park facility, listing equipment that inspires thoughts of bumped heads, skinned knees, and smiles, were unveiled Monday at the local office of City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo, Jr. The proposed park, featuring bank ramps, quarter pipes, sub, grind, and jump boxes, Euro gaps and a host of other obstacles, could be finished within 12 months, Addabbo said. According to New York City Depart-ment of Parks and Recreation (Parks Department) plans, the park would be located between Beach 91 and 92 Streets, south of Shore Front Parkway (SFP).

"I'm really excited about it," said Philip Rodriguez, 12, a beginner skateboarder from Beach 113 Street. Philip and his mother, Elaine Rodriguez, attended Monday's meeting, along with other skate enthusiasts and their parents. Also present were three representatives from the Parks Department, including designer Jon Jadrosich.

"It's a good creative outlet," Elaine said. Skating in the park should be safer for her son, she said, adding that skateboarders often find themselves competing for blacktop with automobiles. Elaine said that if the park is built, she plans to ride there on her bicycle so she can "get exercise too."

Echoing Elaine's comments, Rockaway Beach Surf Shop owner Tom Sena called the park "another good thing for the kids."

Building a park, based closely on the wishes of those who will use it, seems to be Addabbo's goal. "I need community input," he said. The first-round plans are on view at Addabbo's office, at 92-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, and he said suggestions are still welcome.

Philip said he wants additional street obstacles, in addition to the stepped grind box, rooftop wedge, rollover, and grind rails. The Parks Department is also interested in community suggestions, Addabbo said.

Another Rockaway skater speaking up at the meeting was Megan McKenna, 13, of 81 Street and SFP. McKenna said the park should have a large half pipe, like the one her uncle built in the backyard of his Long Island home. She said she's looking forward to riding her blue wood Birdhouse skateboard, with black grip-tape and white wheels, at a park close to her house.

Although he hasn't been contacted by the city regarding this park, one of Breezy Point's former summer residents is an established skateboard park designer and former pro-skater. John Woodstock, now based in Florida, has designed several parks there, as well as in North Carolina, Montauk and Brooklyn, New York. According to Woodstock, the $600,000 Addabbo said is available for the project, less $200,000 in administrative costs, can build a "pretty good park." Concrete and less expensive steel components would be used to fabricate the park, Addabbo said. With experience from completing nearly a dozen parks with price-tags ranging from $100,000 to a million dollars, Woodstock shared his expertise: build a novice or pee-wee area, make sure park-goers wear safety equipment, and staff the park with a daytime monitor. Addabbo said he is "pushing," for formal monitoring and regulation at the park.

Woodstock said that skateboard parks have been gaining popularity in the United States for well over a decade, but noted that they are less common in densely populated areas. Without a park, boarders typically gather in public places to skate. The ramped concrete area near Citibank, on Beach 113 Street and Beach Channel Drive, is one popular spot, according to New York City Community Affairs Officer Kenneth Beecher. He said that in other areas, skaters sliding on public benches have been a concern, but added that it has not been a "huge problem."

Skateboarding parks have created unhappy neighbors in other areas. A facility in Massachusetts caused concern shortly after opening, according to a Sept. 2002 story in the Wakefield Observer. Residents complained about noise, foul language, underage drinking, and other quality of life issues, according to the story.

The chance that similar problems will occur in Rockaway are "a concern," Addabbo said. He added that he wants to work closely with Community Board 14, during the next month, to address those potentially impacted by the park. He also pointed out that the site being discussed isa considerable distance from occupied housing. Addabbo said the boardwalk areas already attract people in warm months, and Woodstock said beach sand should not create a problem with skate and bike wheels.

Though the city is facing tough financial times, Addabbo said, "The only way the park won't be built is if Mayor Bloomberg pulls the money." Working efficiently to build the park, while the money is still available is critical, he added.

Despite sidewalk slip-and-fall lawsuits that cost the city tens of millions of dollars a year in settlements, Parks Department Spokesperson Jocelyn Aframe said, "While it is impossible to eliminate all risk, the new skate park... will bring skateboarders and bike riders off the streets and provide them a safer place to perfect their sport." She said the Parks Department is looking forward to what she called an "exciting project."

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