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City Orders Skaters and Cyclists Out of Chatham Square

By Patrick Hedlund | December 23, 2010 6:39am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

CHINATOWN — Not so fast, skaters.

The city is cracking down on skateboarders and cyclists who use a public plaza as their own personal playground.

Last week the Parks Department added signs banning skating and cycling in Chatham Square, and soon will install "skate guards" to prevent riders from using the park's curved planters as ramps for their tricks.

The action came after neighbors complained of rogue skaters and cyclists invading the seating area in Chatham Square, something they feared would eventually lead to catastrophe with so many pedestrians passing through the plaza.

Community Board 3 and State Sen. Daniel Squadron spearheaded the move after hearing complaints from locals about alternative-sports enthusiasts taking over the small park, which skaters refer to as the Chinatown Banks.

"I am pleased that the Parks Department has agreed to install fence guards to prevent the planters from being used as skateboarding ramps," Squadron said in a statement to DNAinfo, "as well as ‘No Skateboarding' signs with directions to nearby parks that allow skateboarding, with work to start before Christmas Eve."

A handful of signs went up in the planters last week, and witnesses said they had even seen Parks Department enforcement agents ticketing scofflaw skaters since their installation.

Neighboring businesses said the signs and tickets appeared to be working.

"I've haven't seen anybody yet. It's good," said Teddy Vasilopoulos, who's owned the Everest Diner on Chatham Square for the past 12 years.

He said runaway skaters and bikers had shattered his diner's glass entryway three times, and that he's seen them hit pedestrians passing through the plaza.

The "skate guards" will surround the lip of the planters, where in one section someone covered the cobblestone structure in concrete to make for a smoother ride.

For skateboarders, though, the preventive measures appeared unnecessary given that they say Chatham Square is simply an "in-between" stop for riders on their way to better skate destinations.

"When I've been there, nobody's ever hassled me," said Twohawks Young, 26, who frequents the spot. "You try to be respectful of people around you."

Young explained that one Veterans Day a man politely told him that a parade was making its way through the area, so he grabbed his board and rolled away.

"To waste public resources is kind of ridiculous," he said of the city's response, adding that the traffic problem in Chatham Square is more of a threat to pedestrians than skaters. "They could use that money for something else."

Young explained that with the summer closing of legendary skate spot "Brooklyn Banks" underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, skaters are losing places to practice their craft.

"It sucks," he said. "It's another kick in the pants."