Regular updates should resume around Tuesday.
Regular updates should resume around Tuesday.
I’m ending this thing off with Ian because he was the first dude I ever met who was getting coverage in videos when I was growing up and first started going to the Banks. A common question throughout all these interviews has been, “Who would you see?” The best things about spots like the Banks when you’re a kid is that you get to see people you’ve been watching in videos (it wears off pretty quickly, I know.) Nowadays, you might bump into someone trying a line downtown for some shitty web clip, but it’s not the same as showing up to the Banks in August and seeing Dill, Muska, and Jamie Thomas occupy the same spot simultaneously.
In Ian’s case, he was always around, he was always recognizable, and if you were a little kid, he was by far the most approachable dude out of any older skaters you might’ve run across when you were younger. So while a lot of these stories might make the people who frequented Banks sound really stand-offish, there were exceptions to the rule.
Hopefully, everyone enjoyed these interviews. Thanks again to Ted and The Chrome Ball Incident.
Interview by Ted Barrow on September 30, 2006
I benihana’d that shit. That was my claim to fame — a benihaha over that shit. Yeah, dope.
When was that?
It was ’93, baby. Yeah, that’s when I first – Brian used to do benihanas and I thought it was sick.
Did you skate both the Banks and Love?
I’ve been to two out of four, and I was there when two out of four monumental events occurred. The Banks, I was here, I’m from New York. Love, I was there, my man BW put it down. Pulaski, I never fucked with. When I was in DC, I wasn’t skatin’. I was on some other shit. And EMB, I just wasn’t into Frisco. I missed the EMB shit. I saw the new one. I wasn’t into the old one. I wished I did, I wanted to see it.
[gnats buzz around our bench by the dirt]
This place is insane, that we’re sittin’ at. I don’t know what they are, but they’re annoying. I suggest we move. We have to get out of here. [Looks around the empty park, full of dirt and gnats.]
Yo this is so wack, what they did, I can’t even believe it. I’ve been skating this shit for over 15 years, and the only motherfuckers who ever sat back he — actually there was never no seats here — the only motherfuckers who was back here was skaters and homeless motherfuckers more or less. That was before it was all terrorist-crazy and all that, so you know. Motherfuckers used to have their little shop set-up back there in the corner. And they would just sleep and chill. Like now they got all these stupid-ass benches and shit over here. Nobody even sits on these things. Look at us, we’re the only ones here. They got a fuckin’ chess table. This shit is… just stupid, like who the fuck plays chess like this? Out in the open in the city? It’s just weeds and shit. You’ll probably get like West Nile and shit when it’s raining from the mosquitoes.
When did you first start coming here?
Oh, shit. Damn, like ‘88 maybe. Late eighties. When I first started skating, it was like these dudes on my block used to write graffiti, and they used to skate, and the name of their crew was Twisted Skates, and that shit was dope. That shit was hard to me when I was little. And they used to have these graffiti stencils on their boards. I was like damn, I wanted to write graffiti. So they used to skate around and write graffiti, I started writing graffiti and skating around.
Probably like ‘89, that was the first time I ever came to Manhattan. I came here by myself; I saw all these people skating. I just live over the bridge and shit, so I just walked over the bridge, and you used to be able to just walk down them steps and you’d be at the Banks. So motherfuckers are skating here and shit, I just seen it, I was like “Oh shit, skating!” and I just like started skating. I would come here like, not every day because I was still young, but I would come on the weekends and shit when it would be crowded. And it was just wild, skating that shit.
Saturday links will be back on…Monday.
Interview by Ted Barrow on September 2, 2006
I moved here in ’91. I had been skating here before, since ’86, because my mom had a store in the city, so I used to come in and skate the city.
From Jersey. From the shore. You could see the progression of the Banks from going from one of those like, Mecca spots. To me, it’s one of the four spots. You could see it going from that to it being closed down as a police parking lot, to it being renovated, once, to it being closed off when the Trade Center happened the first time, they turned it into a parking lot then. And then when 9/11 happened they said it was closed indefinitely at that point for a year. Now it’s open again, [it has] been re-furbished again. They took the top, the small banks, which totally sucks, but you have to give a little. So, I’ve seen the whole life of the spot. Since ’86, because before that I didn’t skate.
Start at the beginning.
Basically, I started skating just in New Jersey, whatever, I guess it was popular in like ’83,’84. I was actually into BMX before that, but you know…
Many of us were…
Yeah, but one of my friends skated, I was like, “Oh, let me try your board,” or whatever, I got on that shit, and ever since then have been wanting to skate.
What spots were you skating back then?
It was suburbia, so strip malls, back yard pools. One of my best friends that skated had a backyard pool. Some shit had happened and they emptied it, and that’s where we started skating pools. Basically, our inventory to set-up was some of those vert ramps down by the shore, like Carville ramp, some of those rotten parks like Jeff Jones, that was some famous skater back then, he had a skatepark. One of my friends had a weird vert ramp with weird transitions. It was all shit we skated, but what we really wanted to skate was the strip malls, and little jump ramps like that. It wasn’t something where you’d have to like, kill yourself, and it seemed like it’d be more fun, more longevity in skating.
Street skating was more accessible, and everywhere. There was this one ramp called the Gandhi ramp, I don’t know why it was called that, but it was in my town and a lot of people would go there, a lot of pros. I remember Jim Murphy going there back in the Alva days. You’d be like, “Damn, that’s Jim Muryphy!” Or Jeff Kendall or somebody. Someone would always show up there. But we honestly would skate the ramps in his driveway than the [bigger] ramp. [The Gandhi ramp] seemed like it was something that was made beyond our ability. Just dropping in and doing a kickturn on the vert, you’re just so psyched, but you had an illusion that you were a better skateboarder if you skated street, you know what I mean? I think that’s what it was, because you wanted to do tricks. It took a longer time to learn stuff on vert. It was total commitment. I mean, we did it, but you could spend all day, and almost get a frontside air, or I could learn so much shit in the streets. There was a ramp culture down by the shore, because there were bowls, and established pros who had parks, but again, it seemed for our situation, and where we grew up in the suburbs, skating the strip malls was the equivalent of skating the city.
When did you start going into Manhattan to skate?
‘86, ’87, around then. My mother owned a store that’s actually where I live now, on 6th Avenue and Bleeker, the Bird Shit Banks used to be there, or the Bleeker Banks. It was right across the street, and I had come in with her, sort of like as a summer job to help her deliver shit, and right across the street were these sick fucking banks. I have photos from ’86 skating that spot.
It kind of worked out well because I eventually moved into that building, partly because that spot was right there. I was like, “Damn, I’m going to move right here,” you know? My uncle owns the building that’s adjacent to that park, so we never got kicked out.
When did you start going to the Banks?
The Banks, was probably in ’86, when we first started coming in. I’d come in with my friends from New Jersey, and every time we’d come in, we would go skate a little further.
Unlike the other three major street spots cemented in the history of skateboarding, the Banks were the sort of place that literally served no purpose to the public whatsoever, unless you were homeless or rode a skateboard. It had steps that went nowhere, bubbles coming out of the floor that made no sense, and probably the most unaccommodating benches in all of Lower Manhattan. Due to that, it is probably the most interesting spot to ever be canonized in skateboarding’s shortlist of classic spots. It was just an all around, unintentional skatepark. Unintentional skateparks > Simulations. If the ground happened to suck at Love or Pulaski, they would have never made an impact, and yet, still served their intended public function as a place to have lunch, gaze at landmarks, and accidentally run into people having sex or shooting up in the middle of the night. The Banks’ public function? Well, that’s just one big question mark.
That very same reason is crucial as to just why the 2004 renovation was so infuriating. It was the most futile, wasteful, and to put it bluntly, stupid, renovation I have ever seen the city take on (I know I’m repeating myself.) With the basketball courts being the sole exception (they take up a whopping five percent of the spot), the spot is just so unfit to be of legitimate public function that renovating it with chessboards and new benches was like trying to prove a car with a blown-out engine still works by pushing it down a hill.
Take any bridge in New York City: Queensboro, Triboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan, etc. What’s under them? Highways, major streets, and parking lots (sure, there are parks underneath on promenades, but that’s when any respective bridge is damn near 100 feet above it.) What other park is exactly parallel to a bridge off-ramp besides this one? And this place was a parking lot. It just happened to be great for skateboarding.
Perhaps that’s why it is one of the best looking spots to have ever existed — because it didn’t make sense. Looking at it in magazines, videos, and in video games as a kid, before having went there, you just can’t figure out why the hell it’s there if it’s not an intended skatepark.
Hell, how many other spots have gotten away with decades of repeated backside ollie and wallride photos?
The gallery is courtesy of The Chrome Ball Incident, which is more or less one of the few skate websites you should be checking on a daily basis.
Thumbnails after the jump.
Quick side note for non-New Yorkers: Dave Mims is the owner of the East Village’s longest running skateboard sales institution, which coincidentally, is approaching the ten-year mark of filing taxes under the name “Autumn Skateshop.”
Interview by Ted Barrow on August 27, 2006
And that’s when the Banks was really strange. It was weird. It went from being in the late 80s, early 90s, everybody skating and kind of cool, to this element of like, skaters being tough. A lot of people came down to the Banks and they wouldn’t even skate. Like they would just go there, and they were skaters, but they’d be just there hanging out, smoking weed, playing cee-lo. It was a crew.
Coming from Long Island, what was it like for you?
Let’s see, I started skating in ‘88, in Long Island. It was just local crews, everyone was friends. We’d come into the city in the late 80s and early 90s. In the late 80s, most of the banks were closed. Right where that pillar is, where you do tricks over and go from the smaller to the bigger, that part was fenced off, right by the pillar. For like a good year or so. So you only got to skate the small end.
When I first started going there, a lot of people lived under the bridge, there was a big homeless camp right inside the bridge, under the arch. It was open inside. You know that doorway that is cemented over? There was an open doorway and there were people living inside. So at that period, going down to the Banks to skate, you’d be hanging out with a lot of homeless people.
And those were the only people down there?
Yeah, and when you’d sit down in between runs skating, there would just be homeless people all over the place. And then when the meals on wheels used to come by, and deliver meals to the homeless people, like milk crates full of baloney sandwiches, they used to share them with us and stuff.
Do you remember any particular homeless characters that stood out?
None by name. There was one guy, and he used to cook eggs on the hot manhole cover. And at that point, I was taking the train out from Long Island everyday, pretty much. We’d start at the Banks. It was pretty much the meeting place. A lot of people who skated the city and the Banks were mostly from New Jersey and Long Island.