2004-09-03 / Front Page

Thrills and Spills at Skate Park Opening

By Brian Magoolaghan

They didn’t cut the ribbon at this park opening – they shredded it.

The Rockaway Skate Park opened on Tuesday to a wave of eager boarders and inline skaters who have been waiting for weeks, some more patiently than others, to ride on the park’s exciting ramps, pipes and curbs. A number of them took care of the ceremonial formalities when they skated down a 30-degree ramp and broke through the ribbon.

“I like the ramps… it’s different than anything else in other parks,” said Erica Lane, 18, of Rockaway Beach. Lane is correct; the park, which was partially designed by local children, is the first public skate park in Queens. It was built with $600,000 in capital funding secured by City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.

The Skate Park opened less than seven months after ground was broken at the site, and even though the paint was still wet on some of the rails and transferred onto the clothing, wheels and decks of some park goers, skaters had a blast.

Bobby Holler, 11, of Broad Channel, who noticed the wet paint on his skateboard, called the park fun, slick and fast.

Plenty of Parks staff workers were on hand to pass out waivers, monitor skaters and enforce the rules: photo ID must be presented; all skaters must have a signed wavier on file; skaters under 18 must have a wavier signed by a parent or guardian; skaters must wear special wristbands; safety equipment (helmets, knee and elbow pads must be worn); skaters under 18 must also wear wrist guards. Prohibited are illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking, reckless behavior and littering.

One rule prohibiting “bicycles and scooters” left some worried that they had been shut out of the fun, but a Parks spokesperson reiterated that BMX bicycles are permitted, as Parks had said at the February ground breaking.

Delores Orr, Community Board 14 President, said the rules and regulations should insure that the park exists in harmony with its neighbors. Others say the noisy ramps, which occasionally jolted bystanders as skaters hit them, combined with skaters who sneak in after closing, will be a problem. Addabbo warned that without cooperation from skaters the park could close as quickly as it opened.

A Park’s source said there are already plans to put a fence along the boardwalk side of the park where people have been easily slipping in after hours. The ramps were also outfitted with chains that are stretched across when the park is closed.

The scene on Tuesday, meanwhile, was one of excited children playing with a toy that they had wanted for a long time. Their wheels went “zip-zip” as they rolled on the metal ramps and the springy noise of skateboards flipping over and landing, right side up and upside down, almost sounded like applause.

Mike O’Toole, whose sons and nephews contributed to the design of the park and offered to help keep it clean after graffiti was discovered last week, said the boys were thrilled with the new park. “Right now they’re happy as clams,” he said.

(See photos page 36).

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