The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Skateboarders 'Destroying' 110th Street Plaza, UWS Residents Complain

By Emily Frost | October 21, 2015 5:10pm
 Residents say skateboarders frequent the circle and make it hard for others to use it. 
Skateboarding in Frederick Douglass Circle
View Full Caption

UPPER WEST SIDE — Skateboarders have "destroyed" a public plaza near Central Park that angry neighbors and skaters alike agree is tailor-made for the sport, locals said.

Frederick Douglass Circle — completed in 2010 at the intersection of West 110th Street and Central Park West as a tribute to the famous abolitionist — has become overrun with skaters whizzing by and popping tricks onto the many structures within the space, residents said.

Over the past five years, people lodged 88 calls with 311 about improper use of the park by non-pedestrians, which operators then direct to the NYPD to investigate.

The circular plaza, surrounded by a busy traffic circle, features a series of triangular and rectangular benches arrayed in a haphazard pattern, a set of stairs, a few small trees and a fountain. 

"It’s like the world’s most perfect skateboarding park," explained Bill O'Donnell, a resident of a nearby apartment complex overlooking the circle.

He is working with neighbors to curb the prohibited activity, but has gotten little traction complaining the Parks Department or local police, he said. 

Skateboarders also agreed the five-year-old plaza's layout appears engineered just for them. 

"It just seems like it was built for skateboarding, like you'd find at a skateboarding park... it just calls out to be skated on," said Damien Brockett, 24, who was out skating at the circle Tuesday afternoon and added that he and a group of friends spent hours skating there undisturbed on Monday. 

The various granite blocks and the circular design, designed by Algernon Miller based on an African American quilt motif, make it a treat for street skaters looking to land tricks, Brockett said.

Plus, "there's no one really to bother you," he noted. "I never see anyone here."

The lack of pedestrians fighting to the activity has been created by the multitude of skaters who swarm the plaza, O'Donnell said at a Community Board 7 meeting Monday.

"In addition to just getting gradually destroyed, [skateboarding] repels people from the circle," he told board members.

Unlike in other new parks, no infrastructure repelling skaterboarding — like metal protrusions that interrupt a smooth slide along the edge of a railing or bench — was incorporated, O'Donnell said.

"[The design] is kind of mind-boggling," agreed CB7 Parks Committe chairwoman Klari Neuwelt.

Frank Lovece, another resident who lives in an apartment overlooking the circle, told the board there's been an increase in the number of skateboarders, who view skating there as a right, despite a small sign prohibiting the activity.

"There’s a pirate mentality among skateboarders," O'Donnell said. "They do it because they know they know they’re not supposed to do it."

He and others are trying to push the Parks Department to clean up the gouges and scratches left behind by skateboarders and to modify the design to prevent skating. 

Skateboarding also creates a lot of noise at all hours of the day and night, residents said.

Neighbors have appealed to the 28th Precinct for help, but officers aren't visiting there enough, Lovece and O'Donnell said.

On a recent afternoon, an older couple came down from an adjacent apartment, yelled at some skateboarders and enlisted the help of nearby police officers, recounted Brockett, who was among the group of skaters. 

Police came over to the group and said "'it's not a big deal,'" and asked them to disperse without handing out tickets, he noted.

"The cops were almost laughing with us," he said. 

The 28th Precinct commander did not respond to request for comment.

Brockett then tried to have a discussion with the couple, but he said they weren't receptive. In general, he thinks people have a bad impression of skateboarders, saying they aren't actively trying to destroy public property or keep others out of the park. 

"We're not as hostile as people think," Brockett said. 

Residents fighting the skaters have all but given up on enforcement and are hoping they can pressure the city to make infrastructure changes. 

"We feel we should be getting a little more help from Parks [Department] or the city or somebody," O'Donnell said. "We shouldn't have to have the onus on local citiziens."

A Parks Department spokeswoman said the circle is patrolled by Parks Enforcement officers, with additional officers added in the summer months from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the fall and winter months, the circle is patrolled daily and summonses are issued frequently, she added.

As for infrastructure changes, the spokeswoman did not offer specifics regarding any plan, but said the department is looking into all options to deter skateboarders. 

Subscribe to DNAinfo's Upper West Side podcast: