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New Hours Proposed for Popular East Village Skatepark

By Serena Solomon | July 13, 2012 12:34pm
Open Road Park on East 12th Street behind the East Side Community School.
Open Road Park on East 12th Street behind the East Side Community School.
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EAST VILLAGE — A popular skatepark on East 12th Street that has been locked in a tug-of-war among stakeholders and residents received proposed guidelines Thursday that would designate specific times for skaters to use the space.

Open Road Park, which sits next to the East Side Community School between First Avenue and Avenue A, recently came under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department after previously being overseen by the Department of Education.

After closing indefinitely last summer, due to issues such as alleged drug use and complaints from neighbors, the park is set to reopen under a new timetable recommended by Community Board 3.

The board proposed designating skating hours from 5 or 6 p.m. until 8 p.m during the week, and between noon and 8 p.m. on Saturday only. Sunday would be a skate-free day at the request of some residents, the board said.

Use of the park has been in limbo for nearly a year since the DOE restricted access, leaving many skaters to jump its fences for a chance to ride the limited equipment set up inside.

"The more skate parks there are, the less stuff that is going to go down on the street," said 32-year-old Bienbenido “Benny” Guerra, an educator who heads to the park from Queens to skate.

"There has to be a way that everything can get organized."

About 20 skaters, ranging from their early teens to their 30s, spoke at the meeting or held signs bearing slogans like "Skateboarding is Not a Crime." Many of them placed blame for the problems there — including instances of smoking and alcohol use, littering, fighting and vandalism — on a few "bad apple" skaters who residents say plague the park.

The skatepark's hours had previoulsy come under the discretion of the prinicpal at East Side Community School, which was forced to close the park to skaters on numerous occasion last June.

In response, the Parks Department asked the community board to darw up its own guidelines for use of the skatepark.

This summer-only schedule includes use by the University Settlement's Beacon Program on Monday to Friday, from the morning until 5 p.m. for its camp activities. 

The board will also recommend a moveable barricade be installed in the park to separate skaters from the general public out of safety concerns. The public will have use of the park outside of school hours until the evening.

"There are no parks for teenagers," said William Rohan, a 32-year-old sound engineer and skater who previously hosted skating clinics at the park. "There are places to walk dogs and playgrounds for kids, but not for teenagers."

Residents at the meeting knew many of the skateboarders gathered at the meeting by name, noting the two sides had met on numerous occasions to discuss the park's use.

"My issues with the skateboarding is not skateboarders," said Genevieve, an East Village resident of 20 years, who did not provide her last name. "The problem is there are no rules and regulations."

She said the noise created by the skaters echo throughout buildings in the area, creating an unbearable racket.

"On Tuesday someone was skating at 7:30 in the morning and they were there until 10:30 at night," she said. 

Another nearby resident, Sam Suzuki, said vandalism in the park occurred often.

"I saw some skaters cutting the legs off a bench," he said, placing blame on a lack of regulations and enforcement, as well as on a certain group of skaters for causing most of the problems.  "They are vandalizing the place."

The board's proposed guidelines, which have to be voted on by the full community board, are only advisory. The Parks Department has the final say on the skatepark's hours of operation.