By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — A popular skateboard park abruptly closed this week due to an increase of dangerous and illegal activities inside the bustling East 11th Street space, officials said.
Open Road Park, which sits next to East Side Community High School between First Avenue and Avenue A, was locked Monday with a sign saying that the Department of Education-owned space was "closed to the public until further notice," EV Grieve noted.
The park has become an attraction for skaters of all stripes for its multiple obstacles and tight-knit community, ever since advocates worked to make the space publicly-accessible more than two decades ago.
But an uptick in instances of fighting, smoking and alcohol use and vandalism forced the school to shutter the park until further notice, according to a statement from ESCHS.
"East Side Community High School is committed to making this space available to the community and reopening it as soon as possible," the statement read.
"Unfortunately, there has been an increase in dangerous, disrespectful and illegal behaviors in the park. This includes, but is not limited to, drinking, smoking, fighting, vandalism and excessive littering. This has put our students and community members at risk."
Paula Hewitt Amram, founder of the nonprofit advocacy group Open Road and the driving force behind creation the skate park, said she reported to police and the school issues of apparent drug use at the site two years ago when she worked as a supervisor there.
"I personally had to remove people on a daily basis," she said, noting that she found evidence of cocaine in the park. "It was really bad and really hard to get rid of."
However, she dealt with it at the time by encouraging more skateboarders to use the park under adequate supervision in order to drive out troublemakers.
"In my opinion, having the skateboarders there makes it safer," Hewitt Amram said. "The more people in there, the better."
The Department of Education did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did officials from East Side Community High School.
Staff at a skateboard shop located across the street from the park said skaters have been stopping in "all day long" since it closed Monday to ask what happened.
"There was a bunch of kids outside there sitting on their skateboards [for two hours]," said John E., co-owner of Reciprocal Skateboards on East 11th Street, who declined to provide his last name. "It's more of a communal thing for them."
He did hear rumors that the space was possibly closed because of unseemly activities, but couldn't substantiate any of the claims.
Hewitt Amram said she is confident the park will reopen after the problems are taken care of, noting that it hasn't ben uncommon for the space to close temporarily.
"If they're saying that they're going to reopen it, than that's good," she said. "That's my main concern, that it be reopened and that the school provide supervision for its students when they're out there. That's necessary."