Banished To Our Memories — Rest in Peace to Forbidden Banks

The Forbidden Banks are no more.

There has seldom been a Manhattan spot that incited thoughts of “Well, what did you think was going to happen when you built this?” quite like Forbidden Banks did.

Located between an apartment building and the Jamaican Consulate, this maybe five-foot-high brick embankment lead up to an uninviting wooden platform. The spot was nestled between so many tall buildings that it rarely encountered natural light; there are far better parks nearby for an office worker to enjoy lunch, and few people ever chilled here.

The plaza did, however, invite an unintentional activity.

This spot had been around since many of us were kids skating midtown for the first time. It earned its name because you could consider yourself lucky if you got more than a try-and-a-half. How they hadn’t skateblocked it after decades of trench warfare with security and doormen was one of New York skateboarding’s great mysteries.

…and what warfare it was. The bank has been doused with water by the doormen, there have been threats with baseball bats, and residents from floors above have thrown bottles and eggs because some cruel architect played the unfortunate-for-them joke of putting a brick skatepark obstacle below their homes and/or jobs.

But if you’ve never skated New York, you might think, “Wait, the what banks?”

Forbidden Banks was by no means a “big” spot. John Shanahan’s heelflip over the guard rail ender from It’s Time might be the only famous trick done here. (Applicable that it would end a video called It’s Time, when 60% of the trick is …getting time there! 🥁)

Truth be told, there wasn’t even much to do here. But in the ritual of roving midtown, hitting spots, getting kicked out of …most of them — hitting Forbidden Banks always felt like a nothing-left-to-lose Hail Mary mission. Much of skating midtown is being in shock that you are getting time at any spot, let alone one of the most coveted, looks-like-it-was-intended-for-skating ones.

Experiencing more than 45 seconds here was a glitch in the matrix.

If you got more than three tries before security came out, you already won.

Hearing security come on the loudspeaker — thinking it would be enough to get you to leave — was a gift from above.

If you got a kickflip fakie and a backside flip out the way, and were moving onto a 360 flip on the bank, that was nearly unheard of.

Getting a trick off the eight-foot-runway into the bank was a trophy.

“We got seven minutes at Forbidden Banks before security came out” was something to savor.

NOT getting kicked out of here was like catching the white whale. That has happened maybe three times in history, and we’re all still in collective awe.

We’d like to congratulate the residents above, the doormen, and the security guards on never having to hear our wheels again.

(The less-fun bank at the bottom is still there, but the entire plaza looks like it’s being fitted for a complete overhaul.)

7 Comments

  1. Pretty monumental moment when it’s time ended on that heelflip at forbidden banks. Like a New York fever dream.

  2. “The spot was nestled between so many tall buildings that it rarely encountered natural light; there are far better parks nearby for an office worker to enjoy lunch, and few people ever chilled here.”

    This made me wish I had this spot to chill at during my office work hour. Sounds perfect!

  3. Back in the day before NYC had real skateparks – That little stretch of midtown ~46th and 3rd was essentially it’s own skatepark – between the bubble banks (RIP), Dag Hamer, the fountain across from Dag Hamer, Brick 9, the marble ledge with the firefighter mural, the AVON floating red manual pad, the curved bike rack rails… concentrated geography begging for a one spot part


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