Community has mixed feelings about skate park design

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A rendering of where the skate park will go.
Courtesy of NYC Parks

Three years ago plans to create a skate park in Orchard Beach were born, but now in the design phase, it seems the city Parks Department’s vision doesn’t align with the community.

On Jan. 21, the Parks Department held a meeting where some people questioned why the skate park was not coming to their neighborhood and others voiced concerns about proposed features in the skate park.

Suggestions made for the skate park included the desire for multi-use including skaters, bikers, roller bladders and razor scooters, some ADA accessibility features, clarification regarding the 3-foot height rule, the size of the skate park should be larger to allow for more challenging skating, the implementation of different textures, boxes, rails shape and copings and different flows and directions.

In 2019 Blake Cottam launched a petition to create a skate park and Councilman Mark Gjonaj has assisted by funding the project with $3 million. Parks plans to demolish three volleyball courts and construct a new skate park at Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park.

“We went to Councilman Mark Gjonaj with a dream, and he led our group right to the people who can make our dream a reality,” Cottam said. As many action sports enthusiasts in the meeting agreed, if Orchard Beach gets a skate park, it should be the “field of dreams” of the local action sports community. A city as spectacular as NYC should have a beach/boardwalk skate park that draws a massive crowd just like the one in Venice Beach, Calif.”

Cottam said besides the people wanting the skate park in their community he thought the meeting went well. However, he took issue with Parks’ desire to have a skate park with features smaller than 3-feet tall.

“If we are going to build a skate park in the biggest and best park in NYC, Pelham Bay Park, it is only fitting for the park to be suitable for competition,” he explained. “We can’t have a “park contest” in a skate park that only has 3-feet tall ramps?”

He noted that Orchard Beach already has the infrastructure to support such a facility. It offers refreshments (in season), parking and medical and security in some form or another.

The beach is always busy during the summer months and feels the skate park would be an attraction year-round.

“The winter months will be perfect for us northeast Bronx locals and truly dedicated action sport enthusiasts from the tri-state to benefit from the smaller crowds that would still utilize the facilities during the offseason,” he stressed. “I am confident that a skate park in Orchard Beach of any size would be satisfactory, but why not build the best skate park in NYC to complete the biggest park in town, and truly offer locations for all activities to be enjoyed.”

Morris Park resident Matt Caulfield and fellow skater shared his sentiments. He didn’t appreciate people from outside of the community “hijacking” the meeting and hopes Parks listens to the concerns that were raised about the plans.

With a rich skateboard culture in NYC and the fact that a Bronx native Tyshawn Jones was named Thrasher’s Skater of the year in 2018, people should want to skate here, he stated.

He noted that NYC is behind the curve in terms of skate parks, especially the Bronx.

“This needs to be the most advanced skate park in the Bronx in order for it to live up to its potential to attract many users,” Caulfield said. “Skate park design is an art and you can’t just start listing features and slap them together.  You need an imaginative, technically capable skate park builder to pour their creativity into it. Sadly, against early warnings from the community, the designer the landscape architect chose to subcontract is Spawn Ranch, who has a reputation for cookie-cutter designs.”


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