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Skateboarders Damage New East River Park, Councilwoman Says

By Julie Shapiro | November 7, 2011 6:48am

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Skateboarders are overwhelming Downtown's new East River Waterfront park, scaring other visitors and damaging stone benches, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said last week.  

Chin said she recently walked through the new multi-million-dollar park on the weekend and was dismayed to see skateboarders commandeering the granite-paved paths.

"It's really dangerous," Chin told city officials at a City Council hearing last week.

"It's supposed to be a really tranquil place for people to sit and look at the water, but it was filled with young adults on skateboards. You need to create a place for them."

The two-block esplanade running from Wall Street to Maiden Lane is the first section of the larger $165 million East River Waterfront, which will open in phases over the next several years.

Designed by SHoP Architects, the esplanade features hexagonal granite pavers in shades of gray, stone benches edged in metal, barstool seating overlooking the East River and lush beds of foliage, along with a popular oval dog run.

The metal edges on the benches make them ideal for skateboarding, several people doing tricks in the park on a recent afternoon said.

"You can ride a lot smoother," said Frank Alverson, 25, from Albany.

"A regular curb you have to wax, but this is already ready to go."

His friend Luis Gomez, 20, who was visiting from Spain, added: "It's perfect to skate on."

DNAinfo found many of the four-month-old park's stone benches are chipped or have small chunks missing, the metal edges scratched and, in some cases, deeply grooved.

Some skateboarders shrugged off the damage.

"It does [hurt the benches], but that's what we do," said Christian Escobar, 17, from Brooklyn.

"That's how it is."

A couple minutes after Escobar spoke, a security guard approached him and his friends and asked them to leave.

Skateboarding is against the park's rules but, the security guard said, "This happens all the time."

Chin isn't the only one who is frustrated about the impact of the skateboarders.

Joel Kopel, a Financial District resident and Community Board 1 member, said he was frustrated to see the park damaged after the city spent so much time and money building it.

"We just built that beautiful park with taxpayer money," Kopel said. "Now the hooligans are in there, destroying it."

The park has also collected some graffiti since it opened, with many people scrawling phrases on a wide wooden railing at the water's edge.

A spokeswoman for the Economic Development Corp., which built the park and is responsible for maintaining it, released a statement saying, "We are assessing the situation and we ask the public to call 311 to report any problems so we can address them in a timely manner."

At the City Council hearing last week, Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro agreed with Chin that the city could build more skate parks to give skateboarders a place to go.

Last year, the Brooklyn Banks skate park under the Brooklyn Bridge closed for several years of construction, but a new skate park also opened in TriBeCa, in Hudson River Park.

"The problem is, they still want to do street skating," Castro said. "That's a challenge for us."