We all know the ancient proverb: “One man’s infrastructural banality is another man’s tailslide.”
But for all the details of cities that skateboarders pay a perverse amount of attention to — the positioning of cracks before stairs, the shapes of curbs, literal fucking trashcans — our ability to isolate a select few traffic medians as desirable places to hang out at is an under-appreciated tidbit of our lunacy.
To the average person, a median divides two opposing directions of traffic. Unless someone is an engineer, there is absolutely no reason to spend any of their precious time on earth thinking about one. To a skateboarder though… it’s not a ledge, it’s not a curb — it’s a ledge on TOP of a curb.
Given our struggles of just being left alone at a decent-enough ledge, some of our more able-bodied colleagues sought refuge in the soothing serenity of New York City traffic. And like many parables of post-Financial Crisis skateboarding, this one begins with Jake Johnson.
Having back tailed this Long Island City median in his Short Ends section (the de facto prologue to the Mind Field part), and returned for a back lip in the more officially recognized debut, this spot is distinct from all the others in that it sits on a calm-ish patch of 48th Avenue. Timing the lights, watching for traffic, and warning pedestrians isn’t exactly a ballet of logistics when you’re in a residential zone.
But Jake is not a man content with limiting himself to one median.
[Connor Champion via Grand Collection]
In the six-thousand years that it took the city to “fix” Houston Street (it’s already shit again, obviously), they added these concrete slabs between lanes, which were often only skateable until they install a chain around the perimeter. Whenever one went through a period of activity, it would be described via its most famous adjacent establishment. The one Jake front blunted in Mind Field was the Angelika median; for a minute, a handful of blocks east, the “Katz’s ledge” was a thing.
The Houston Street medians were long and frustrating, but two streets south, a far more wretched beast awaited.
We have all no-doubt seen some of the sweetest, kindest people turn into the sort of demons that satan keeps tucked under his bed for special occasions the second that they get into a car and turn eastbound onto Delancey Street. And if you were to rank Delancey’s intersections in terms of hellishness, it’d be a battle that ends with a buzzer beater in Game 7 versus Bowery and Delancey, but Christie and Delancey would emerge as the clear winner of the Hell Conference Finals.
[Bobby Puleo via Moving in Traffic]
[Jason Dill via Mind Field]
[Bobby Worrest via Quartersnacks part]
Puleo faced satan and his cars head-on with his nosegrind while a Manhattanhenge took form behind him; Dill circumvented a lot of the intersection’s most satanic factors by nosegrinding it at night. Of all the spots that we are discussing today, this one requires the highest level of mental fortitude. Its roll-up was ruined by textured bike lane paint in the late 2010s, and for a spot that was already really bad, this additional factor shut the lid on skating it.
Long before that point though, medians were going mainstream. Everyone wanted a piece of the action — not only those talented enough to be interested in skating a high, long ledge while looking both ways to ensure that they wouldn’t get hit by a car.
Just around the corner from the World Famous Lenox Ledges™ was the spot that would bring medians down to size so that they may be accessible to all. The curb it sat on is like an inch high. The ledge itself is about as high and in comparable shape to its more famous siblings an avenue over. It is short. Tech gods skated it. The kids skated it. Everyone could skate it! The spot became so ubiquitous in trip edits that you could merely say “the median ledge” to any skater on the island of Manhattan and they’ll know you were talking about the one by Lenox.
[Gavin Nolan via “Five Trick Fix“]
By the time Gavin Nolan got through with it, it began to seem as though we were running out of ideas. Had skateboarding advanced so far that a median was now like any other ledge? Maybe that close call with a UPS truck for a crooked grind put things into perspective? And were you really about to ask another driver if he could back up a few feet so your friend could have space to roll away from their stupid trick?
Well guess what?
We waxed a longer median!
[Brian Reid via Grand part]
That’s right baby! 67th and Broadway! It’s two-and-a-half times the length of the Harlem median! And Boston’s ledge lords have only began to scratch the surface of the A.B.D. scroll on this one! Woooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!