Sponsor deflects skate park criticism

Although it was too hot to skate that day, local youngsters (l-r)Ariel Lucero, Justin Deenihan, Cadeim Beckford, and Nicolas Gusap, on the skateboard ramp behind M.S. 101, discussed what they felt were unfair accusations made by the community against kids who use the park. - Photo by Patrick Rocchio

A groundbreaking experiment – the first unsupervised local skateboard park – has drawn heat from some community leaders and police who feel it is contributing to problems with disrespectful and out of control  youth.

45th Precinct Community Council president Frank Fitts, an opponent of the skate park, a portion of a larger recreational area behind M.S. 101, said that he feels the park leaves the surrounding neighborhood vulnerable to quality-of-life issues.

Fitts expressed his views at the June 5 meeting of the council, indicating the Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership, the group who worked with Parks to put in the skate-park, was not in touch with the day-to-day activities at the facility.

“They [TNCAP] are down on Shurz Avenue,” he said, “and then the police have to deal with these young [skateboard] punks.”

The executive director of the Archdiocese of New York’s Drug Abuse Prevention Program, Frances Maturo, who is also the chairwoman of the board at TNCAP, responded to Fitts’ complaints, which had been spurred on by an area homeowner’s concerns, ironically, of alcohol and drug use at the park. 

Maturo disputes these claims and discusses how the park helped revitalize the community. 

“That park used to have multiple cracks in a side wall and weeds growing in it,” Maturo recalled prior to the skate-park opening exactly two years ago. “Now, it is an extremely viable park being used by youth.”

Maturo felt that it was the overall lack of manpower at the Parks and Recreation Department and NYPD that has led to whatever complaints have necessitated a police response, and that manpower issues affect all communities across the city.

A representative of M.S. 101 agreed that the skate-park is an asset to the school and the area.

“There are kids in [the skate-park] all of the time,” said Monica Harris, of M.S. 101. “and they do pretty good in there.”

Maturo also pointed out that the skateboard facility is only one portion of the park, which has had some issues with drinking and drug use stretching back to before the skate park was installed.

Despite finding some beer bottles in other parts of the park, she said that the area with the skate-park remains vibrant.

In fact, on Earth Day, April 22, children who use the facility were honored during a skate exhibition for their efforts in keeping it clean, including picking up trash and buffing graffiti, among other cleanup efforts.

 “The park is now alive and well and used for healthy purposes,” Maturo continued. “[TNCAP] set up procedures where we can get input from folks in the community. We urge the community to call 911 if they see a crime in progress.”

Maturo noted that TNCAP, a group of concerned organizations with a goal to devise solutions for alcohol and substance abuse problems and other high-risk behaviors of youth, has done all that is in its power to continue a dialogue with Parks and police. 

Maturo also pointed out that the 45th Precinct Council is a part of TNCAP’s membership, receiving e-mails as to the time of their meeting, and the minutes.

In the meantime, local youth have some words to share of their own.  “[The skate park] should be there,” said park patron Justin Deenihan. “Without it, a lot of kids would have nothing to do.”

Vanessa Tabet added: “The people using this park are not young punks.  A lot of educated people, a lot of kids from this school and other schools, come here for recreation.”

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