Stoked! Upgrade for UWS skate park


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The $2.6 million renovation, to be completed by next spring, will add new life to the dream of late NYC skater legend Andy Kessler


Photos



  • Riverside Skate Park Final Design. Site Plan: NYC Parks




  • A skater gets some air in Riverside Park. Photo: Tony West




  • Legendary NYC skater Andy Kessler in action. Photo: Courtesy NYC Skateboard Coalition




An Upper West Side skate park that opened more than two decades ago is getting a much-needed face-lift. On June 8, the Parks Department and elected officials broke ground on a project to renovate and modernize the Riverside Skate Park at 108th Street. The park was created in 1996 by iconic New York City skater Andy Kessler. Kessler helped design other skate parks in the city, including Pier 62 Skatepark in Chelsea. He died of an allergic reaction to an insect sting in 2009, at age 48,

According to Ian Clarke, the founder of the NYC Skateboard Coalition, the UWS facility was considered the first “serious skate park” in the city. “It was getting old,” Clarke said. “It was a wooden park with metal ramps. The most important thing was, it was built by Andy Kessler.”

The new design includes an 11-foot deep bowl, the most dramatic feature of the new park, which was specifically requested by the serious shredders. The existing footprint of the skate park will be increased, and the perimeter landscape will be enhanced. New benches and fencing will be added.

A New Generation of Skate Park

The $2.6 million project was funded by Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal and State Senator Robert Jackson. The park is expected to be finished by next spring.

“Providing diverse amenities in our parks is vitally important. And the reason is simple, we serve a diverse universe of visitors — those looking for a place to connect with friends, relax or be active,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “More than 20 years ago we introduced skating as a feature in Riverside Park, thanks to Andy Kessler, and because it remains very popular we are giving it the upgrade it deserves.”

Clarke said the renovation is long overdue. The park had fallen into disrepair — the wood was rotting, the half-pipe was dangerous with sharp edges. It was simply not safe. “It’s a new generation of the skate park,” he said. “New York has historically had poor skate parks. This new Riverside design will help us catch up with the rest of the country.”

He expressed gratitude to Community Board 7, especially Parks and Environment Committee Chair Klari Neuwelt, for their help in making the renovation happen.

Andy Kessler Would Be Stoked

New York City skaters Jaime Affoumado and Nelson Ala knew Kessler well. Affoumado, now 53, started skating when he was 7 and met Kessler in 1977. Though Kessler is gone, he said, he continues to have an impact on the NYC skating community. “[Riverside Skate Park] gave a chance for New Yorkers to skate,” he said.

With a modernized park set to open on the UWS in less than a year, the hope is that more people will be able to live Kessler’s dream of skating in the city, since they won’t have to travel downtwon. “That park’s going to be famous,” Affoumado said. “It will be insane. We wanted to keep skating alive in New York.”

For Ala, 49, talking about the park was a bit emotional. He lives on the UWS, was a skater and was close friends with Kessler, who he said helped him through some rough times in his life. “I’ve been clean and sober as a result of his friendship,” he said. “He was a good dude. It was just a tremendous blow when he died.” Ala suffered a skating accident in 2013 that cost him his leg, but his son, Levi, 10, is a skater now, just like his dad.

Kessler’s vision shaped the skating community in the city, said Ala. He has no doubt that if his friend were alive he’d be teaching Levi how to skate. “He (Kessler) would be really stoked that there’s an 11-foot deep bowl,” he said. “I’m pretty stoked about my son being able to drop into an 11-foot bowl one day.”






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