Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 07 May 2010 00:00
Many people attended last week’s public meeting on the skate park to show their support for this project. It was clear from those who attended this meeting that Port Washington needs to have a skate park, and that residents are eager to get this project started right away.
The public meeting was led by Councilman Fred L. Pollack and was held to give the Town of North Hempstead a better idea of the possible skate park, with factors such as location, size, and the elements and materials being considered. The locations that have been discussed are Sunset Park, Manorhaven Park, and North Hempstead Beach Park. The materials of the skate park could be modular or concrete. Overwhelmingly, person after person stated that they would like to have a skate park in Manorhaven and they believe it should be concrete.
Robert Laker, director of Skateboarders Need A Park in Port (SNAPP), voiced his support for the skate park at this meeting, and began his comments by reading an email from School Superintendent Dr. Geoff Gordon. This email said, “You have my complete support regarding the skate park, and I think it is terrific that kids will get an opportunity to constructively be off of the streets.”
Laker said that there is a viable need for a skate park in Port Washington and provided more information on skateboarding. He cited the latest report from the National Sporting Goods Association of America, which showed that skateboarding is the fastest growing sport, since the number of participants has gone from 5.8 million to 10.1 million in the past 10 years. This report also states that skateboarding is tied with baseball in terms of participants and has 30 percent more participants than snowboarding. Laker also said that since skateboarding is illegal on streets, kids are being chased away by police officers because they are skateboarding where they are not allowed to skate, and it is also a problem for pedestrians on the sidewalk who are afraid of getting hit by a skateboarder.
Additionally, Laker cited a study from the Consumer Protection Safety Council (CPSC), which said the number one cause of injury to skateboarders is skating on uneven surfaces, meaning that it is dangerous to skateboard on sidewalks. This study from the CPSC also shows that skateboarders experience fewer injuries than almost all sporting activities.
Laker added that kids in neighboring communities would have a closer alternative for a skate park, since there are not many skate parks in the area. He also said that the preferred location is Manorhaven Park and they would like it to be built soon.
Sherry Klein said that she is very much in favor of a skate park and provided her story on why she would like to see this happen. “Some two and a half years ago, I stopped a bunch of kids in a town parking lot. I stopped them to make them aware of broken glass that was in the path of where they were going. We starting talking, and I asked them why they were skating in the parking lot, and they said they had no place else to skate. I took their names, I took their email addresses and I contacted Councilman Pollack, who got on this immediately,” she said.
They had several meetings to discuss a skate park, Klein said, and she wrote an email to the kids on February 19, 2008 with the subject line “The Skateboard Park/BMX Park may be closer than you think.” In this email, she gave them more information on what she had learned from these meetings, such as the town’s considerations on location and materials and funding. She said, “They are hoping to be up and running this year, maybe even this summer. But don’t hold your breath – just keep your fingers crossed.”
Klein said she was sorry to say that the date on this was two years ago. While understanding that government moves slowly and that there have been economic problems recently, she was very concerned for the welfare of these kids and how their safety is jeopardized due to a delay of building the skate park. “The time, ladies and gentlemen and Councilman Pollack, is now,” she said. “Before something really awful and irrevocable happens to one of these nice kids.”
One of the people in the group of kids that Sherry Klein met gave his perspective as a skateboarder and the need for this park. “I am with these kids everyday, and we’re getting chased out of places nonstop. I am sure that the officers don’t like coming as much as we don’t like them coming,” he said. “One of these kids is going to get hurt in the street one of these days if we don’t have somewhere to go,” he added, and said that if nothing is done then it is going to be the same recurring cycle. Finally, he asked, “What’s the next step? What do we have to do to get this thing done?”
Councilman Pollack said that they have to put out a request for qualifications to get a designer, and that once there is a designer, there will be another public meeting to gather feedback from the community. He also guessed that this process could take up to one year and 18 months, but that he was not totally sure how long it would take a designer to come up with a design. Pollack added that he was on the town board when Harbor Links was built, and the most important thing was picking the designer. “I want to do it once, and I want to make it useful,” he said.
Eric Pick, who is a local architect and member of Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington and its Board of Directors, said that he hopes a skate park would be built soon, because he would feel safer going for a walk around town if he knew the skateboarders had a place to go. Although he has been a proponent of building the skate park at the Town of North Hempstead Beach, he saw several advantages for Manorhaven, such as the fact that it is part of a sports complex and it has great public transportation. But finally, Pick said, “Just do it – at this point I don’t see a tremendous difference between building one in Manorhaven or the beach park. Just do it!”
Joe Antonik, a skateboarder since 1975 and a Port Washington resident for several years, gave more information on skate parks and urged people to visit the website skatepark.org. He thought that the best location for a skate park would be Manorhaven, and he thought it should be at least 10,000 square feet. Antonik added that modular parks tend to be noisy, while a well-designed concrete park is quieter and will require less maintenance and repairs over time. He gave many examples of the different looks and styles of skate parks, and said that for Port Washington, it should be a “well-rounded park that meets the needs of all the different skaters and is appropriately sized.”
One woman, who is the parent of two high schoolers and a college student, said that she tried to get a skate park 10 or 12 years ago. She said, “There is nothing constructive for the children in this town. Just movies and pizza – that’s it.” She also said that as a result, some kids are experimenting with alcohol or drugs, and if kids have found something constructive to do like skateboarding, they should be encouraged. “Kids that have nothing to do wind up being destructive, and that’s really not what we want for this town and it’s not what we want for these kids. I think that this skate park is long overdue.” She added, “We needed the skate park yesterday, last week, a month ago, 10 years ago.”
Sgt. Steven Cardello of the Port Washington Police said any problems associated with skateboarding are about safety. “A kid skateboarding down the center of Main Street in the middle of traffic is a problem, and it’s really a big problem if the kid gets hit by a car or if they cause an accident,” he said, and added that the Port Washington Police fully supports the skate park and will do anything they can to help move this along. While they do not want to get too involved in selecting a location, he said that there are a lot of positives in building the park in Manorhaven, such as better public transportation.
Howard Cohen, a Port Washington resident since 1982 and a parent of skateboarders, said “I am here for my children, not for my grandchildren.” He gave Councilman Pollack a petition with 1,000 names, which the kids started and collected all of the signatures. Pollack said that the petition is very helpful in showing that the skate park is something that the community really wants.
Cohen compared the skate park to a golf driving range. “Kids want a place where they can practice the element over and over until they nail it, just like hitting a golf ball,” he said. Also, he explained that the skate park would help the local economy, since it would bring more people to Port Washington who would spend their money at the stores and restaurants in the area. “People drive from all over the northeast to go to a good skate park,” he said.
Other people agreed that a skate park would help the local economy. One parent said that she spends her money where she takes her kids, and that a skate park would bring people from neighboring communities to Port. Another parent added that Manorhaven is a great idea because there are businesses nearby like pizzerias and delis, and pointed out that North Hempstead is a little off the beaten path and further way from local businesses.
Rich Branciforte, owner of the skate park Oil City in Oceanside and resident of the Town of North Hempstead, added his support for a skate park in Port Washington. “Skateboarding is an incredibly misunderstood sport. It’s rock and roll 25 years ago, the whole breaking guitars on stage. The kids who come to Oil City Skate Park are a great bunch of kids – their parents are fantastic and they’re very family driven,” he said. Additionally, Branciforte agreed that the skate park should be concrete, and that it is important to get the right person to design this park.
Two skateboarders said, “My friends and I urge the Town of North Hempstead to build a skate park in Manorhaven.” They described how much they love skateboarding, and that they want to practice it all the time and look forward to skateboarding after school. Also, they said that their friend got hit by a car while skateboarding, and they do not want to see something like this happen again.
One person urged the town to commit to a timeline, since the skate park has been discussed for two years. He thought that this timeline should have benchmarks and that it should be something to report back to the public. Other people griped about how long it was taking to build the park, and asked why it was taking so long.
Pollack said that there has been a lot to learn, such as issues about size, location, and elements. He said that it is difficult to commit to a timeline at this point, and that they can only say that they are going to try to build it as quickly as possible.
Lee Tu, former Republican candidate for Town of North Hempstead Supervisor in the 2009 election, commended parents and kids for working so hard to get this skate park. He emphasized that this is an important learning experience for these kids on government and accomplishing a goal within a community. “If we as adults do not take up this issue, then what are we telling our young people about how government works? It is important for young people to see this issue from beginning to end,” he said.
One person suggested forming an advisory board for the planning stage of the skate park. He suggested putting Joe Antonik and Rich Branciforte on this advisory board, since they have knowledge of skate parks and skateboarding.
In conclusion, Councilman Pollack stated that he would work towards getting this on the agenda for the next town board meeting on May 18. He said that the first step is to authorize an issuance of a request for qualifications for a designer. After the request for qualification is issued, there needs to be time for response and interviews.
Since this public meeting took place, Councilman Pollack added this statement: “The extraordinary turnout of concerned parents and kids demonstrated the strong support for a skate park in Port Washington. I am committed to moving forward with the project.”
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman also issued the following statement to Port News: “The Town of North Hempstead has been committed to the construction of a skate park for some time, although the original timing was delayed due to the recent economic collapse. The project is now gearing up and we are ready to go.
“As far as the public meeting goes, there appears to be a consensus that Manorhaven Beach Park would be the best location to build a 15,000 square foot cement skate park. I know that Councilman Pollack and I are both ready to make this happen. I anticipate that we will be presenting a plan to the town board members in the next couple of weeks.”