2005-12-16 / Community

Local Boarders Demand ‘At Your Own Risk’ Skating Access

By Tori Toth

A group of local bikers and boarders gather at Rockaway Skate Park to support the petition.A group of local bikers and boarders gather at Rockaway Skate Park to support the petition.

  • A park designed to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble is actually closed more than it’s open, and that has some local skaters, bikers and boarders pounding the pavement for a change.
  • Three of Rockaway’s most dedicated skateboarders, Angel Andino, 15, Ivan Gamba, 12, and Curtis Cooper, 11, are asking the community to sign a petition to keep the park open year round.

    “I started [two weeks ago] going around to buildings and collecting signatures in Mass at St. Rose church,” Andino told the Wave, “we’ve collected over 300 signatures so far.”

    The outdoor public skate park located on Shore Front Parkway at Beach 91 Street opened in September 2004.

    Skaters and boarders were able to contribute suggestions during the park’s design process, but they have had no control over when they can skate.

    Pictured from left to right Curtis Cooper, Angel Andino, and Ivan Gamba the creators of the Rockaway Skate Park petition.Pictured from left to right Curtis Cooper, Angel Andino, and Ivan Gamba the creators of the Rockaway Skate Park petition. Rockaway Skate Park has limited hours of operation from April through October, and that has left some kids wanting more.

    “Skateboarding is a positive outlet for us we need to be able to use our local park legally,” said Andino.

    Many of the boarders have been ticketed by cops for skating on the streets and using the park during off-hours.

    Another local boarder, Josh Southerton, 16, believes he shouldn’t be penalized in the future “by having [skateboarding] on [his] record.”

    The skaters travel to Long Beach, Broad Channel or head to Beach 92 Street in front of Borders, a skateboard shop, to practice while the park is closed but most of the time they’re deterred from skating at those places.

    “They have places for people to play basketball, football, surfers have the ocean we have a closed park,” said Southerton.

    Just 100 feet away— on the beach that surrounds the park, surfers can ride the waves all year round at their own risk.

    Andino plans on using the petition to propose that the Department of Parks and Recreation put up a sign giving those the option of skating at their own risk.

    “Everywhere else in the country skate parks are at your own risk,” said Craig Stathis, 28, owner of Borders, however that’s not the case in the city.

    Parks have set-up guidelines that some boarders and bikers believe take the fun out of skating.

    In order to enter the park that features 10 ramps and 4 grinding rails, riders must present a signed release waiver and a photo I.D. to a Parks employee. Riders are also required to wear helmets, knee and elbow pads, and those under 18 must wear wrist guards.

    However, enforcing all of those rules to prevent accidents hardly seems fool proof. Rick Salinas, 16, a boarder, told the Wave, “[he] was wearing full pads [when he] got hurt in the park and those watching didn’t do anything to help.”

    Many skaters believe park employees are not really necessary.

    “If they’re going to fool around and not watch us then why can’t the park be opened all year around skating at your own risk,” said Andino. When The Wave asked the same question to a representative at the Parks Department, she had this to say: “Our skate park regulations are in place for the safety of our park users.”

    The Parks Department spokesperson added, “Skate parks pose serious risks when users fail to wear safety equipment or engage in reckless use.”

    Parks plan on continuing to closely monitor all skate parks that have ramps higher than three feet.

    City Councilman, Joseph Addabbo Jr., who helped arranged city funds for the construction of the park, believes safety is just one problem, “the park cannot be open when ice and snow are on the ground.”

    However, Addabo said, “I would still probably sign [Andino’s] petition.”

    The council member said if the Department’s workforce was not depleted over the winter months people would have a chance to enjoy the park year round.

    But, in order to increase the staff that requires funding—something that is scarce in the 2007 budget. There will be a “3 to 4 billion dollar deficit [in 2007]. To find the money available for workers is going to be a hard task that I’m willing to undertake,” said Addabbo.

    Meantime skaters, bikers and boarders will keep grinding the streets in search of signatures and a place to practice their skating tricks during the winter months.

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