The China Banks are some of skateboarding’s most hallowed ground. From being a pivotal filming location for Powell Peralta’s The Search For Animal Chin, to the site of Joe Valdez’s tricks that earned him a devoted cult twenty years after the fact, to the host of numerous NBDs, magazine covers, and even 2018 video part enders — there are few street spots in skateboarding that have been able to endure FOUR DECADES of continued innovation and history.
…but those are San Francisco’s China Banks.
New York‘s China Banks are perfect three-foot-high quarterpipe transitions, which are ideal for a city that didn’t begin getting a surge in actual skatepark transitions until the 2010s. They have gaps between them, a hip, and are the perfect size for anyone looking to have fun learning a transition trick on a natural quarterpipe. The only catch is, of course, that they are made out of perhaps the only surface less conducive to skateboarding than fire or water: cobblestones.
So why have our Chinatown Banks, constructed out of some of the worst possible material for skateboarding, endured as a kinda-sorta-maybe-could-be spot for the past ~twenty years?
You know those friends who always find themselves in “project” relationships, where they try to see the best in the person despite countless red flags, and drain themselves trying to “fix” their significant other? That’s New York skateboarding’s relationship with the China Banks — I mean, have you seen the garbage we skate? We look at bad spots through rose colored glasses, thinking they’re mere steps away from perfection. We’re co-dependent on these bad spots; the plain trick on the bad spot just means so much more than if it’s a hard trick on a recycled plastic bench in a parking lot. Maybe if we approach them just the right way, and apply just the right tweaks to them, the Chinatown Banks will love us back.
Unfortunate for us, things don’t always work out as optimistically as we hope.
I’m sure someone could track down the last remaining copy of a random 5Boro VHS promo in a Japanese basement and disprove this, but as far as the QS office is concerned, the first coverage of this spot was Richard Mulder doing a pivot fakie on it in the EST2 credits. The tender-hearted Richard thought that if you approach the loveless bank with big, cushy cruiser wheels, it might open up to his truck’s embrace. And it did!
…but then came every single twelve-year-old to have a VX1000 pointed at them from the years 2002-2007 filming rock fakies on this thing — all finding themselves at a standstill when they’d “roll” to the bottom of this cold hearted bank.
Someone went for the big score. Legend has it that skaters with a crude knowledge of masonry dressed up as city workers, and covered part of the bank with concrete early on a weekday morning. A snow storm came later that day, covering their work and letting the bank dry under a layer of pure snow.
Once the springtime hit, twelve-year-olds lost their fucking minds.
A concrete quarterpipe in the city! And it’s barely even three-feet-tall! Children left school early, cut school altogether, dropped out of school, and burned down their schools so they could skate this masterpiece of a 2-and-7/8ths-foot quarterpipe.
Grade point averages plummeted. Standardized test scores fell through the floor. Teachers were fired, and the schools that didn’t become charred black frames were shuttered and slated to become Whole Foods locations later on in the decade.
Assorted Years of the Obama Presidency
To put it lightly, the neighborhood fucking H A T E D us.
Over the years, there had been various news stories circulating about the park, and how we ruined it for everyone else, as we have a habit of doing…
Ok, a “desecration” might be a bit extreme, but they have a point, fine.
Skaters are annoying — we get it — but we’re just trying to prove to this bank that it is worthy of receiving love, and you’re acting like its bitter cousin going through a tough break-up and projecting your own shit on what we are trying to work out. Ugh.
Needless to say, they installed benches in front of the most oft-skated portions of the park in 2010, and the spot went dormant.
They also promised residents that they’d renovate the park in March of 2016, and it’s currently August 2018. I guess that’s our fault, too? ;)
We don’t give up on love that easy! Believed an act of Jerry Duty™ — though not confirmed — someone pulled a similar concrete job as the one from eight years earlier on the channel gap adjacent to the diner. It didn’t last long, because on top of the fact that the diner began coating the banks with kitchen grease to expedite our deaths, the city chiseled out the smooth portions not long after the spot made its debut.
Jason Byoun came through and tried this, causing us all to set aside our differences for one of those moments where all humans felt unified as one earthy family.
When New York skateboarders fall in love with a bad skate spot, we fall in love HARD. And in 2018, we’re still running the fools errand of trying to make the Chinatown Banks work. No benches, no grease, not even a slapdash concrete job seems like it can stop a co-dependent, toxic love like this.
We’re Alma, the China Banks are Woodcock, shitty concretework is the poison she feeds him — all in our Instagram Story skateboard rendition of The Phantom Thread.