Skatepark proposed in Albany

IMG_0049John C. Longton III

Staff Writer

Skaters in Albany may soon no longer worry about being ticketed for doing what they like to do.

Currently it is illegal to ride a skateboard on public property in Albany and has been for quite some time. Because of this, skateboarders and police have been clashing over the unwritten rules of this hobby. With a growing population of skateboarders, the problems of not having a destination are getting amplified. This could be subject to change with newly elected mayor Kathy Sheehan and her administration.

Last month the city of Albany’s Department of Recreation announced that they’re proposing a skatepark for the city and it’s residents. On Nov. 18, department of recreation commissioner Jonathan Jones hosted an open forum regarding the skatepark and invited anyone interested in attending and getting information. He and deputy commissioner, Elizabeth Draper, put together a ten minute presentation about the plans for the park then took questions and comments from anyone in attendance.

“The Albany skatepark is still in it’s infancy stage,” said Jonathan Jones while talking to the room full of board enthusiasts and community members. “We wanted to get your input,” said the commissioner. This is a project that the city has never taken on so he wanted to get as much feedback as possible before moving forward with the development.

The city is partnering up with various entities to tackle this project. The Washington Park Conservancy, Seasons Skate shop, Department of General Services, and a couple different neighborhood associations are helping the city plan and develop the park. Funding for the park seems to be the biggest hurdle.

To build a decent park it looks like the city is going to need roughly $400,000. There are numerous grants that can help alleviate that burden. The city is taking the steps to apply for some of them, including a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

The Tony Hawk Foundation gives grants for building skateparks that can be used free of charge. The grant can be anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000. Last summer the foundation gave away over $100,000 and has given over $5 million since 2002. On the Tony Hawk Foundation website it states, “The Foundation favors programs that clearly demonstrate that funds received will produce tangible, ongoing, positive results.”

During this past summer, the village of Nyack, NY was awarded $25,000 towards the construction of their skatepark. Syracuse was also awarded a $5,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation and has built a skatepark within the past year. The city of Albany is reaching out to various other municipalities that have taken on a task such as this. “We want to get everyone’s input so we do this right,” said Jonathan Jones. Jones, a Syracuse native, has been in constant contact with the Syracuse  Commissioner of Recreation Baye Muhammad.

On June 21, 2014 Syracuse opened it’s first public skatepark, East Woods Skate Plaza, in the Eastwood neighborhood. The date was symbolic because June 21st is national go skate day. The total cost for the construction of their park was $400,000. The city of Syracuse contributed $236,000, New York State gave $149,000, the Eastwood Neighborhood Association donated $13,000 and they received a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation for $5,000. The development itself was in the works for about nine years. A lot of factors played into the delay of the park including finding a location that could house such a project.

As for the destination of the skatepark in Albany, nothing has been finalized but there is a clear frontrunner to where the site may be. The “blue banks” on the south side of Washington Park on Madison Ave has been the unofficial skate spot in Albany. They are tennis courts that the city hasn’t used in quite sometime and seems to be a good place to ride. It is currently illegal to skateboard there and has a couple no skateboarding signs facing the courts, but the city understands the skaters have no where else to go. The city has been been lax and turned a blind eye to the situation.

Every year on June 21st the “blue banks” hosts go skate day, a day where local and national skateboarders take to the streets and skateparks to skate all day to add to the growing interest of the sport. Last year the event only lasted a couple hours due to the fact that the city had pulled the permit the skaters needed to host the event. This action received a lot of criticism.

Other than the “blue banks” skaters choose to use the local monuments to ride on. This is part of the reason why Albany feels the need to build a park. With the emerging interest in skateboarding the city has noticed a rise in the wear and tear of it’s monuments.

“We have a growing population of skaters here. We also have a lot of monuments. To ensure that those monuments stay intact there need to be a safe space for skaters,” said Jonathan Jones.

The new skatepark will also get kids off the streets and give them a place to congregate without getting harassed by the local law enforcement. “I think the construction of a skatepark in Albany is a great idea,” said Evan Baisley a local skateboarder. Evan believes that a skatepark in Albany will keep boarders from getting in trouble. He also thinks it will impact the local Albany economy in a positive way. “People will travel to Albany and spend money in local businesses,” said Baisley. He goes on to say, “It only makes sense that the capital of New York state has it’s own skatepark.”

Like Jonathan Jones reiterated the park is in it’s “infancy stage” and will take some time to complete. The project has been in the works since January 20th, 2014. “The mayor and I met and decided it’s a priority for us both to get right,” said commissioner Jones. “It will cost just as much to build a bad skatepark as it would a good one.”


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