A noted distinction between skateboarder-types and the rest of the world is that we have knack from drumming up cool shit in even some of the wackest places. You’re probably bored to bits by the cliched assertion that “skaters see the world differently,” but that whole “most people just see a bench while we see a canvas” thing still holds some weight, and it can be argued that this critical gaze extends beyond spotting natural transitions and waxable granite. We’re generally discerning, attentive to detail and uncover the most flattering aspects in even the most mundane of areas.
So we’ve started a new little recurring series where skaters we admire guide us through their hometowns. The first one is with Gino.
I was born in Manhasset, Long Island. It’s towards the north shore, center of Long Island, about forty minutes by train, half hour drive from the city. I grew up in Westbury, Nassau County, which is about a ten-minute drive from Manhasset. Westbury was a mix of upper middle class, middle class, and a little bit beneath middle class. We lived really close to the border of the extremely wealthy, which is right over the Jericho Turnpike in Old Westbury. It was really close to some unreal, beautiful homes. As far as nationalities: heavy Italian, heavy Irish, heavy African-American in Westbury. When I was growing up you could see the South American and El Salvadorian community growing, and now the Spanish are like the Italians of when I was younger.
Well of course, the first one that comes to mind is Billy Joel. He’s from Long Island, lived in Hicksville, a town over from me. Now he’s in Oyster Bay. As far as hip-hop, we got Chuck D., Rakim, De La Soul, Leaders of the New School — Prodigy’s from Hempstead. I didn’t know this but Lou Reed was from Freeport. Brian Setzer’s from Massapequa, Charlie Murphy and Eddie Murphy grew up in Roosevelt, Ralph Macchio’s from Huntington. My favorite, Debbi Gibson, is from Merrick. Amy Fisher is from Belmore…Joey Buttafuoco, I don’t know where he’s from, he must be from a neighboring town. Billy Crystal man, he grew up in Long Island. He was born in Manhattan but grew up in Long Beach. Mariah Carey, Huntington, the Baldwins are from Massapequa. Harvey Milk was from Woodmere. A bunch of interesting people.
I can only refer to my days, and those a long time ago. “The scene” — I don’t know what the scene is now. I only go to parks now, in Long Island at least. There are obviously more parks now, but I don’t consider the park scene a scene because it’s just a bunch of kids skating. I can’t even tell who’s friends with who.
I stayed local in Long Island until I was a young teenager and started venturing out into the city. There were clicks in my part of Long Island, then there was the click on the South Shore of Long Island, then there was the click in Suffolk County. You kind of knew who each person was, and who they ran with based on where they lived. That’s kind of how it was until we all grew up and got to be fifteen, sixteen, seventeen-years-old, and started taking trains, getting licenses, and venturing out into different places.
Right now though — if I had to guess — there’s a scene of course, but I don’t really see it. It’s hard for me to say.
Photo via @_mooremoments
Honestly, the only shop I can shout out right now is Bunger out in Sayville, which is fuckin’ far from where I’m at. It’s all the way out east in Suffolk County, in this beautiful town. That’s the only remaining shop that I know of. When I had the shop [Poets], there were a few more around. They’re all gone. We all shut doors around the same time — pretty interesting.
Why do you think that is?
Well, I mean, computers, you know? It has to be. It’s like thinking about why are there more parks and less kids skating in the streets? There’s more kids ordering, I would think, on their computers, sitting at a desk, rather than going to a shop. It makes it that much more difficult for people to put money into a shop and try to build a foundation with core skaters that represent the shop.
SPOTS & PARKS
I don’t even really go to skate parks on Long Island beside Bethpage. It’s really fun and close to where I’m at in Nassau County. There are bunch of parks: there’s a Port Washington which is close to Manhasset, where I was born. It’s a really small park, right on the water. Northport has a skatepark, I think Lance Mountain designed some of the bowls there. That’s like one of those regulated parks — I think I’ve skated it once in my life. There’s two parks in Long Beach. All the way out east you’ve got Greenport, out on the island, which is a beautiful park, beautiful area of Long Island. Then Montauk has a park. There’s a bunch more.
As far as skate spots, that’s a tough one. I would definitely bring someone to Roslyn Banks on a weekend when there are no cars. That’s a fun spot and they just repaved everything.
Where are those steep banks?
That spot is Stony Brook College, but it got torn down. That sucks, that was the best fucking spot, it was awesome, everything about it. Fuck man, Long Island’s tough.
Image jacked from Flickr
I would say for everything, especially sandwiches, this spot Kitchen Cabaret which is in Roslyn Heights. Whatever you’re in the mood for, they have the best of it. It’s like a gourmet deli. Then if you want Italian, there’s a really nice hole-in-the-wall pizza spot with a restaurant in the back called Positano, that’s in Williston Park. If you want a nice little buffet-style but really well cooked light meal or coffee or some pastries, there’s a place called Diane’s in Roslyn also.
Then of course, in Long Island, any diner you see is good. If you’re hungry and can’t think of a place to eat, any diner is going to be good. Just don’t order pasta or steak, that’s the diner rule. Pizza, if you want good pizza there’s Vincent’s in Huntington, there’s Gino’s in Westbury, and no, it’s not just because my name is Gino. If you don’t want to spend Peter Luger money but you want a good steak at a good spot, this place called Major’s Steakhouse in East Meadow, that place is sick. One more I gotta shout out is Witches Brew for a good coffee and great food, and that’s in West Hempstead.
How has it changed?
Where I’m from, a lot of things are gone. A lot of new things are there, the chains — it has definitely gotten a little more busy. As far as people’s backgrounds and stuff like that, my family’s neighborhood used to be, I would say, 95% white, 2% black, and 3% Spanish. Now it’s probably like 80% Spanish, still maybe 2% black, and the rest white or something like that. I think it’s cool. I think that when you’re young, you’re ignorant, you don’t really know how life is and how life works so you kind of judge people. When you get older, you see those people starting to prosper and do their own thing, buy their own homes, and you have more respect. For the town where I grew up, it has completely 180ed from when I was young. There was a very poor element that I was witnessing growing up that now I’ve seen grow into a middle class, which is great.
What’s your favorite part about being from there?
Sticker scan via Chromeball
I don’t know if it’s New York pride or something, but you just can’t get any better than New York. I’m just proud to be from Long Island, so close to the city, so close to everything. We have beautiful beaches, the city is a half an hour away, there’s skiing an hour and a half away. We’re flooded with amazing aspects of every culture. Home is where the heart is, I’ll always love home.