According to The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins, Allen Street gets its name from William Henry Allen, the youngest Navy captain in the War of 1812. (Our then-recent ex, Great Britain, was beefing with Napoleon while America stayed neutral. The U.S. was trying to send a flow box to France, and Britain felt some type of way about it. Like any bitter ex who sees someone else wearing your hoody after a messy break-up, they went to war.)
Legend has it that Allen was in the English Channel on the hunt for opposition, when he stumbled on a Portuguese cargo ship carrying wine. Him and the squad had a wild night with the haul, but unfortunately, got caught slipping by the British on the following day. Allen and his crew’s colossal hangover would be their last: British canons shot off his leg, and he would die on August 18, 1813.
200 years later, L.E.S Skatepark was born.
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.
(The list series formerly known as “The Events That Defined New York Skateboarding in 20__”)
If you started reading our award-winning skateboard website in 2014, we should inform you that every December, we turn the mundane into the fantastic by counting down the moments that shaped skateboarding in this fine city throughout the past twelve months. They are listed in rough order of importance, depending on how you define the word “important.” A fun way to reminisce for those who were there, and a way to get informed for those who were not. Enjoy ;)
Previously…2013: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1 / 2012: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1 / 2011: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1 / 2010: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1
25. The Grease Banks
We begin our year-end countdown with where we began last year: skate deterrents. Where would we be if not for those who try to stop us?
We’re accustomed to having buckets of water poured on us by people who live above diamond-plate skate spots, or eggs thrown at us by kids out of project windows. Hell, in Barcelona, we saw someone throw bleach from a window on a drunk crowd of skateboarders outside a bar. But this fall, after becoming an accidental neighbor with Chinatown’s latest bank spot, a restaurant poured kitchen grease all over the obstacle of interest, which — short of maybe smearing shit all over a spot — is the most hateful skate deterrent of all time, especially in less-detectable low light.