Riverside Skate Park Waiting for a Much-Wanted Facelift

By Leslie Albrecht on July 6, 2010 6:44am 

Max Schoenblatt, 11, of Miami, tries out the half-pipe at Riverside Park's skate park.
Max Schoenblatt, 11, of Miami, tries out the half-pipe at Riverside Park's skate park.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE —  Built in 1995, the city's oldest skate skate park dates back to the days when Tony Hawk was a pro skater, not just a video game.

These days, the ramps and half-pipes that sit in Riverside Park at 109th Street are showing their age.

Community members and the Parks Department agree that the Riverside skate park should have been upgraded at least five years ago. But with no money in the parks budget to fund a $750,000 makeover, local skaters find themselves without some modern skating conveniences, even as the city recently opened two new facilities in Queens and at Hudson River Park.

Take 20-year-old Raymond Robinson, from Morningside Heights, who last week was showing off his longboard moves to a group of awestruck tweens. Robinson told DNAinfo that the park was in need of rails so skaters could "grind," a move most accomplished skaters would be ashamed not to have in their repertoire.

"(The skate park) has been around since I was a kid and they haven't really done anything with it," Robinson said. "They've maintained all the other ones, but this one they kind of just left."

Robinson pointed to a nearby ramp and said it looked like it might fall down if a skater landed on it too hard.

Safety was also concern for Orlando Haddock, a web designer in his 30s, who said he visited the park with his three children about once a week.

"The ramps are so old. They need maintenance," Haddock said. "Renovations aren't just about making it look prettier, they’re about making it safer."

The Parks Department would like to modernize the facility, said spokeswoman Patricia Beruccio. She said the Parks Department wants the park, which she said was the first in Manhattan, to appeal to "the taste of the skateboarders of our time."

"There's a lot of things that have changed about skateboarding since it was built," Bertuccio said.

Usually the parks department gets money for renovation projects from City Council members' discretionary budgets, Bertuccio said.

Raymond Robinson, in blue, shows off his long board moves to fellow skaters at Riverside Park's skate park. Officials say they skate park needs a $750,000 renovation, but there's no funding for the project.
Raymond Robinson, in blue, shows off his long board moves to fellow skaters at Riverside Park's skate park. Officials say they skate park needs a $750,000 renovation, but there's no funding for the project.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

"It’s really up to elected officials to allocate funding," Bertuccio said. "We’d be happy to accept money."

Community Board 7 district manager Penny Ryan said that she thought the skate park would probably move up on the city’s to-do list if skaters were more politically active.

Back in 1995, it was teenagers who helped design and build the skate park in the first place.

Pushing officials to fund the renovation would be an ideal project for kids to tackle now, Ryan said.

"It would great for kids to do some advocacy on their own behalf," Ryan said. "There are so many other capital projects in the district that are priorities, but there's no constituency for this one."

"It's not like when parents get together and demand a new playground."

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