New Soto Skate Park: Where’s the challenge? say skateboarders and bikers
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – MIDLAND BEACH – Young skateboard and BMX enthusiasts who previously flocked to Benjamin Soto Skate Park from all over Staten Island expressed astonishment and disappointment last week about what they see as the dumbed-down version of the borough’s only skate park. The city’s Parks Department reopened the site on June 16.
“This is terrible – there are no ramps – this place is not a skate park any more,” said Woodrow resident Matt Duffy, 14, who attends Tottenville High School and gets from his South Shore home to the Midland Beach facility via the Staten Island Railway (SIR).
Great Kills resident Chris Nazzaro, 17, a recent graduate of Monsignor Farrell High School who will enter the College of Staten Island (CSI) as a freshman, agreed. “I’ll grind the rails for a little, and then find somewhere else to go,” he said.
“The old park was fine – we had a good and decent park – all it needed was repairs,” said Joshua Ocasio, a 20-year-old engineering major at CSI who lives in Prince’s Bay. “They just tore down everything. It should not have been bulldozed. This is crap.”
The Parks Department told the Advance on Monday that “six steel and concrete benches and multiple steel rails planned for the site are now installed,” and “a low concrete platform and ramp will be installed this summer.”
In a statement, the agency explained that “ramps over three feet require safety equipment and helmets and staff to monitor,” adding that “most of the new skate parks being built have primarily ‘street elements.’
“We hope to add concrete ramps, bowls and other elements when we have funding, but we will not be adding ramps over three feet as has been discussed with the community and elected officials on previous occasions,” the agency said.
“This is a slap in the face,” said Stephen Quigley, 17, of Grant City, a constant presence at the skate park for the past four years. “It’s like taking tackle out of football.”
“It’s a disgrace that it’s come down to this, and there’s only this to show,” said a disgusted Tim Cox, 15, of Bulls Head, a BMX enthusiast who attends McKee High School and sometimes rides his bike from the West Shore to Midland Beach when he cannot catch a car ride.
Skateboarders voiced similar complaints last week, all of them upset about the lack of ramps that allowed them to ride, “get air,” and establish momentum for other tricks. “You can’t fly off any of this stuff – there’s no variety,” one of them said.
“I can’t skate transition and do ‘tranny’ tricks. It’s all rails and street stuff,” another complained.
“It’s the worst thing ever. They should take it back, and put in some real edges,” said Akeim Whylie, 16, who lives in Rosebank and attends Ft. Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. “This is like junkyard welding,” he commented, pointing to the low metal rails. “I know because my dad is a welder. I want to unbolt this stuff, and bring it home for my dad to make better.”
His friend Rich Rojas, 18 – a McKee High School student, also from Rosebank – said that the newly reopened park “is not what I was expecting. I’m a little grateful, but they should add quarter-pipes, banks, and ramps.
“They didn’t consult with us when they made this. There should be fewer rails,” added Rojas, a user of the park for the last four years.
The whole point of skate parks is the availability of infrastructure not easily – and legally – found on the streets, the young riders explained.
“Kids go pro at 14 years old,” said Quigley of Grant City. “So for those of us trying to go pro, this is wasted time that we can’t get back. This was a place to learn – the only place on Staten Island.”
“We recognize that the current ‘street elements’ may not accommodate all styles of riding, and we are working with the skateboard and BMX community to identify and advocate for either future enhancements to Ben Soto, or the complete rebuild of a new skate park at the same location,” the Parks Department said in its statement. The agency noted, however, that “there is no budget at this time” to reconstruct Soto Skate Park.
“We are also investigating additional skate park opportunities in Staten Island parks,” the agency added. “We are now considering the possibility of adaptively-reusing the old Safari Amusement Park site (at Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Avenue, owned by the Parks Department) as a skate park,” the agency stated, noting that “a Request for Proposal for the operation of the adjacent building facility as a Parks Concession was released on April 20, and the deadline was June 23.
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