Illustratations by Mike Gigliotti
Good spot names are one of New York’s enduring traditions. A name condenses a spot’s origin story into one or two words, often a homage to its earliest conqueror (R.I.P. Huf Ledge, Vallely Banks, etc.) A spot name could also provide useful visual cues to look for (R.I.P. Bubble Banks, Pigeon Shit Double-Set) or even smell for (R.I.P. Shit Hubba) upon first arrival — a shorthand to know you’re at the right place. And a spot name is a way to pass along useless essential folklore to skaters yet to be disappointed by the diminishing expectations of our city’s most sought-after destinations.
But good spot names are dying.
Look, we’re the last ones who should be chastising the internet for making people dumber, but it is all spot apps’ fault. Peruse through any spot finder and you’ll see things called “black marble,” “bank to curb,” and “sketchy eight stair.” Imagine dying and your best friend eulogizes you as “tall, sketchy, with brown eyes?” Skate spots let us mark up all their corners, and ask nothing in return except maybe to pick up the trash when we leave. They deserve to be called something more vibrant than “downhill ledge.”
This history bypasses all spots named after what they actually are, e.g. what building they are adjacent to. It’s pretty easy to figure out why Pace University Ledge, Paine Webber Benches, and Lenox Ledges have their names. It also avoids one level beyond that: spots named after the neighborhood they are in. Polish Park is called that because it’s in a Polish neighborhood, Gay Ledges gets its name because it is in a gay neighborhood, Hasidic Gap because it is in the Hasidic section of Williamsburg, and …well, you get it.
For all the pontificating that skaters do about their own artistry, they sure do grasp at the lowest of hanging fruit when it comes to visuals. Look for no further evidence of apps’ stupidification of our spot-naming abilities than the fact that this place comes up as “Red Circle Skate Spot” on Google Maps. Who could look at this barren abyss on the side of the Queens-Midtown Expressway and see anything but a giant red sombrero? Not only are the apps making us try less, they even have the audacity to try and reverse a decade-plus of accepted terminology?
On the more creative side of things, this ledge was nameless until the influx of art students really began to pour into New York at the start of the millennium. For years, it was “that foot-high double-sided ledge on the third FDR overpass after you make the right off Houston Street” — until a B.F.A. trained eye noticed that the ridges separating the sections of the ledge resemble the University of Florida’s team mascot.
Soggy Hot Dog Bun Ledge
More commonly called Popeye’s Ledge as a tribute to that deliciously deadly fried chicken restaurant across the street (the apps have it listed as “bike path ledge”), this spot’s secondary name is a testament to the strength of creative classification. Lurker Lou described the ledge as “grinding like a soggy hot dog bun” nearly a decade ago, and the name has told us everything there is to know about what skating this spot feels like in the years since.
If a spot earns its name for a smell, it is never flattering. For example, there’s that high yellow metal ledge in Tribeca that always smells like cumin because it is below a spice importer, but it has stayed just that, “the high yellow metal ledge just south of Canal.” No, we remember the stenches — “Shit Hubba” (Anthony Correa’s guest backside 180 nosegrind in Kalis’ Photosynthesis part) is more our speed. Why? Guess.
Though the fish smell has somewhat subsided in the days following the spot’s debut in Busentiz’s Roll Forever part, the name has stuck if only in remembrance of all those who dealt with the smell while skating this gap in its prime coverage days.
These south Williamsburg ledges earned their name because in the spot’s infancy, it was almost impossible to pull up during a warm weekend, and not encounter a basketball tournament soundtracked by reggaeton. The music’s dominance of the spot seems to have decreased in recent years, but given the genre’s resurgence in popularity even beyond Latin American communities, this spot is bound to rejuvenate as an epicenter for reggaeton basketball in the not-so-distant day when Drake completely abandons rapping in english.
Sometimes the tiniest bit of minutiae earns a spot a name that endures for decades. I’m willing to bet that 99.99% of the people who have skated this rail don’t know the circa ~2003 Allen Ying photo of Kerel Roach frontside lipsliding down it while wearing Arnold Schwartznegger’s signature Ray-Ban Wayfarers from the Terminator franchise. (It’s not even online.) It was, however, the first photo ever of the spot, and the name stuck ever since. Until the rail met its demise in the summer of 2018.
Rick Owens Gap
Though this inclusion might fail our “refusing to call it what it actually is” barometer, the Rick Owens Gap has the unique distinction of being perhaps the sole piece of Soho diamond-plate to have a proper name. Spots in this high-fashion neighborhood often lack names because they all blend into the same loud mash of high-bust real estate and similar-but-ultimately-all-cool-looking hunks of brown metal. This nexus of #drkfshn was nameless before Rick moved in, and only earned a label once skaters became the magnets for all things fashion that they are today ;)
Fat Kid Spot
Originally called the “Dill Spot,” as its first coverage came in Jason Dill’s Skate More part, but someone made note of how remarkably…um, low to the ground this spot was. So low, that you could in effect ride onto the flatbar from a six-inch platform. Making it easy for um, heavy children to skate in a pre-Jamie Foy era when it was foolishly assumed that big boys could not have pop.
The truthfulness of the name was further driven home when some anti-childhood obesity activist cemented a *six-inch-high* wedge up to the main manual pad, making it possible to grind the rail without ever having to ollie at all.
Most of midtown’s marquee marble is named after the corporations that inscribe their names on said marble: CBS, FedEx, Grace, et al. But Italian Ledges doesn’t have a company laying claim to its red marble edges. It’s named after a fateful evening in like, 2002, when a group of children on skateboards were aggressively kicked out of here by a man who can only be described as a walking caricature of Growing Up Gotti-esque Long Island Italian American.
There are dream spots and holy grails. There’s even that dumb name “heaven” spot next to the S&P building on Water Street (cement five-block from every little kid skate video circa ten years ago, and yes, it is skate-blocked now.) Forbidden Banks is exactly what it sounds like: the opposite.
Nobody with any history of having ridden a skateboard has walked past this spot and not wondered “what the fuck were they thinking when they built this?” Except the reality of the matter is that an un-heavenly voice appears on a loudspeaker as soon as you set foot on the property with a board. An ensemble of security guards will run out and stand in front of the bank, sometimes grabbing a bat for extra intimidation. And particularly hellish forces have sometimes dumped water on the spot from above.
Naming a spot after its nearest subway stop is braindead, but admittedly useful. Our dearest friend Keith Denley is not one to give in to such easy temptation.
As the “Chauncey Ledges” (named after the Chauncey Street J train station you get off at to skate here) became the most popular New York spot of 2017’s final quarter, Keith Denley noticed that Chauncey Street was in fact right next to Furman Avenue.
“Furman? Isn’t that the name of the racist cop from the O.J. trial?”
And so, the Racist Ledges became Chauncey’s better name.
The Tekashi Ten
This spot spent a decade in clunky name purgatory: “that ten stair in Bushwick with the curb before it that Jake Johnson back 5050ed in Mind Field.” Then, two cosmic events occurred that will no-doubt go down as some of the universe’s most unexpected coincidences. Around the same time that this set metamorphosed itself into a rainbow that in the recent past would’ve been more immediately synonymous with pride, car speakers in the spot’s Bushwick home began only playing the scream-heavy music of a rainbow-haired guy from the Instagram explore page, whose face happens to be covered in 69 tattoos.