Shit To Sugar — A History of Trying to Make New York’s Chinatown Banks ‘Work’

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.

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Support your local bodega. According to a recent New York real estate report, the city is facing a wave of bodega closures. That most likely has to do with every available retail space in New York turning into a Duane Reade that charges you $2.30 for a twenty-ounce soda. When all the bodegas close down, so will this website. Stop supporting Duane Reade.

Congratulations to Dennis Busentiz for winning Tampa Pro. One of the top five active skateboarders today. Speed is everything. The Real video couldn’t come out any sooner. Watch The Road to the Real Video here.

Here’s a Miles Marquez mini-part / promo that Quartersnacks put together for Akira Mowatt’s clothing company, After Midnight New York. It’s probably the third time in the past few months that you have seen the switch heel over the Mercer Street gap and the Prince Street quick set-up planter ollie. In other words, it’s all recycled footage.

An interview with Ian Reid about Streets is Watching, his long-delayed follow up to Sex, Hood, Skate & Videotape from 2006. You can watch the three-year-old teaser to the video here.

These Video Days sits down for an interview with Bill Strobeck, to discuss creative processes, inspirations, and other things that will probably make you ball up in joy if you go to film school, or something. 48 Blocks also ran an interview with Bill a while back that goes more in depth regarding skateboard video history and whatnot, so read that if you missed it.

The Parks Department bolted a bench down in front of the main, concreted-over bank at the Chinatown Banks. Thankfully, there is no reason to ever go there again. Someone will probably thread the needle and back lip between past the bench though. Thanks to Sam for the tip.

Haven’t been to Brooklyn in 2011 yet, but a few people have said that the 11th and Wythe Street ledge down the block from KCDC is done for. Can anybody confirm? Is this a conspiracy involving Tyler Bledsoe, the Secret Service, and the Parks Department? Did he destroy it after “making it popular?” Why does a spot become “popular” only after it appears in a Transworld video? There are many questions to be answered with this untimely demise.

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All White Everything

Thunder, lighting and snow, that’s a first for this lifetime. There’s even snow inside the train stations right now. If you happen to be blessed enough to not have work today, don’t go outside. Sit home and listen to the Can’t Ban the Snowman tape or something. Here are some links to pass the time for this Monday morning.

With board graphics getting all of the retrospectives, and printed-word love these days, wheel graphics are pretty much universally neglected. Here’s a quick guide as to when skate wheel art began, and ceased to, matter.

The Quartersnacks Varsity Jacket via Bowery Stadium.

Someone asked Ian Reid if he could name “25 skateboarders who are actually from New York” on his Tumblr some time back. He returned with a very comprehensive answer.

Anthony Claravall offers some anecdotal nostalgia about the Cardona brothers, and what it was like filming their 411 “Wheels of Fortune” segment sixteen years ago.

You know things are slow down in Yahoo News International Headquarters when they can write five hundred words about the city installing fences and “No Skateboarding” signs at the Chinatown Banks. They quote Two Hawks Young though, which is sick. For those who don’t know, he was a crucial part to the greatest conceptual skateboard video of all time.

Anthony Beckner threw together the first batch of footage from the Below the Bridge Skatepark with the Classic Skate Shop crew. Conveniently enough, the park opens today, but even driving to Bayonne might be a bit too ambitious of an endeavor right now. The park looks slightly smaller than expected, and unfortunately doesn’t have the two different sections of street courses like Drop-In does (real estate, I know), but it would still be a good call for an off-hours winter session. Just maybe wait for the kids to get back to school.

While you complain on the internet, Roctakon is a humanitarian who supports Dominican skateboarders.

Rob Harris’ “Aussie Pressure” clip. The ending is brilliant.

Blueprint Skateboards’ “Summer in New York” digi-cam clip. Aside from the ground, this spot is the worst.

Thanks to everyone who linked up the Christmas clip: 48 Blocks, NY Skateboarding, Mound City, Paulgar, Second Nature, Blogge Materiale, Senes 23, Olson Stuff, Ian Coughlan, Krook Life, Skate the Streets, Tim Nolan, High Five Skateshop, Strictly Skateboarding, Max White, Delta Co. You guys are the best.

Quote of the Week:I’m going to buy a bottle of Jack and drink it until I no longer care that I suck at skating.” — Miles Marquez

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