Beyond being some of the most expensive property in an already laughably expensive city, the waterfront has been instrumental to the progression of technical, #lowimpact skateboarding in New York. The city has always been a decade behind California in terms of technical ability, but had it not been for the development of the Seaport, a flip-in trick might’ve forever been a myth to New Yorkers. Just think: did you ever truly see people doing reverts, nollie flip-ins n’ shit before someone thought to put angle iron on those wooden blocks? Not really, right?
With Seaport 5.0 being the frontrunner for 2014’s “Spot of the Summer” (in a lead comparable to Chris Brown’s for equally important “Song of the Summer” honors), we take a look at the five forms that Seaport has taken throughout these past twenty years. While reading this, please keep in mind that there is barely anything resembling a “normal, straight ledge” at any Manhattan skatepark.
Seaport 1.0 / Actual South Street Seaport
Dates Active: Mid nineties
Cross Street: John Street
Wooden ledges and wooden ground. Not much here, but the spot made its way into many New York articles (when you could run a switch frontside tailslide on a low ledge in one) and some video parts two decades back. While people out west had already graduated from red curbs and bottom step at Embarcadero, the twenty or so New York skaters who were capable of skating ledges at this point in time (~1995) may have learned how to do so on these barely foot-high wooden blocks. When Ian Reid was talking about switch crooked grinds of the era “looking like complete shit,” he’s referring to the many switch willy grinds that slipped through the wooden cracks at this spot.
Maurice Key’s Trilogy part could fill you in on the role these benches served: a midway point between the Banks and the skate up to Astor Place.
Date of Demise: Not until 2012, when the plaza was torn down and replaced with a pre-knobbed replica of Seaport 4.0. People stopped skating here long before though.
Seaport 2.0 / Newport
Dates Active: 1999-2001
Cross Street: Peck Slip
In the late nineties, some genius took notice of the fact that the wooden blocks from Seaport 1.0 existed on hard, cement ground some 100 feet north of Fulton Fish Market, and put pieces of angle iron on said wooden blocks.
History was made.
This is the most iconic incarnation of the Seaport. Anthony Pappalardo and Brian Wenning told stories of sleeping nights on the benches and sustaining on free Burritoville chips. Josh Kalis performed the best flatground trick ever done here. The water below claimed hundreds of boards over the course of the spot’s existence, and some brave souls even trekked down to recover their beloved set-up from an eternity of decomposing in East River filth. It was also the first spot that featured any hint of technical skateboarding within New York City limits. Maybe the first switch back tail ever done by a New Yorker was here, who knows? Jk lol ;)
Date of Demise: All the angle iron fell off by the end of summer 2001. Then something terrible happened a few blocks away, which had the obviously unimportant aftereffect of ending skateboarding in lower Manhattan for at least half a year. The benches were replaced with generic park benches by spring 2002.
Seaport 3.0 / “Bench Down Curb”
Dates Active: 2002
Cross Street: Gouverneur Lane
Debatably the greatest “Spot of the Summer” in New York skate history. It wasn’t a bust, the ground was mostly good, and above all, it was covered from both the sun and rain. You could skate here whenever, for however long you wanted, whereas Newport wasn’t safe from rain and smelled like hell during low tide. The Duane Reade half-a-block away made maybe like $10 million off skateboarders that summer.
It is unclear whether the mastermind who affixed the metal onto Newport was the same mad genius who…decided to prop one of these previously neglected benches…DOWN. A. CURB. The spot’s peak coincided with the Deca Second to None era, and propping a bench down the curb was our, um, “simpler” homage to Daewon’s stacked tables.
Date of Demise: Fall 2002. The city put metal bars across all the benches. People would lipslide the bars and stuff, but the dream was dead. Skateboarding moved away from the Seaport entirely, and “Spot of the Summer” honors went to Red Benches in 2003, and 12th & A in 2004 and 2005. Until…
Seaport 4.0 / The Most Frustrating Skate Spot in Human History
Dates Active: 2011-2012
Cross Street: Wall Street
This was the best ledge spot in the history of New York’s rocky love affair with ledges. (This excludes places like the Apple Store, Lincoln Center, etc. since you have a .001% chance of ever skating there.)
If you went on this website in 2012, you may remember that 50% of the content centered around complaining about how utterly moronic it was that nobody could skate here. They built blocks worth of skatepark ledges that were better than any actual skatepark ledges in New York, and hired some of the meanest humans alive to enforce no skateboarding rules. (There was one cute security guard with a big butt here who would be nice about it. Hope she’s doing well.) They simply could not figure out why fifty kids would be here skating if they turned their back for twenty minutes.
This spot > any skatepark built in this city, ever.
Date of Demise: Late 2012. They knobbed a skatepark.
Dates Active: Three weeks ago – probably one week from now
Cross Street: Montgomery Street
The city continued to build pre-knobbed Seaport 4.0 replicas up South Street, except by the time they got to Chinatown, they stopped using the original, nice metal. They used aluminum, which is good, but not great. Seaport 5.0 is more like skating a bleacher than the best skatepark ledge you could imagine.
Some kids knocked off the knobs within days of the spot opening up, but they’re already getting reknobbed. Expect this to have the highest volume of “Summer Trip to New York” clip appearances in the 2014 cycle — which, by the way, seems like it is off to an uncharacteristically slow start.
Related: Can’t Go Skateboarding Day