The Vicious Cycle House — An Interview With Zered Bassett via 2003, a Year Magazine


The following feature appeared in 2003: A Year Magazine. (We ran a feature from 1991 last year.) The issue is now available for purchase on, along with a QS hat we produced in collaboration with 2003 to commemorate the northeast blackout of 2003 — the day the T.F. was dubbed the safest place on earth.


Skateboarding was maturing in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Videos went from handycam promos to hour-long blockbusters with pro-level production values, skaters were padding their pockets with royalty checks from sponsors that were fatter than ever, and prodigious 15-year-olds were outshining the grown-ups with tricks that were unimaginable in the early 90s.

Except in New York, where skateboarding was still synonymous with chilling, of a lifestyle without an end goal. After 9/11, it felt even further removed from what was happening in the skate industry at large. The spots throughout Lower Manhattan became either desolate or off-limits, which made chilling (instead of missioning into the outer boroughs) that much more appealing.

But being New York, there was, of course, an exception. Vicious Cycle, released in 2004, was a video made throughout those years that upended the attitude associated with New York. Filmed by R.B. Umali and Doug Brown for Zoo York from 2002 to 2004, it was the first video to emerge from a crew of skaters living in New York who refused to accept what was becoming the status quo for a city that dominated in most other areas of culture. The result was very much up to par with anything coming out of California or elsewhere.

In 2003, Bassett and other skaters involved in the making of the video cohabited a windowless apartment in Lower Manhattan. This is the story of the Vicious Cycle house.

Where are you from and how did you end up in New York?

I grew up in Chatham, Massachusetts, which is in Cape Cod. I started skating there, met people, and then started going to Boston a lot. From there, I started getting hooked up with Zoo stuff from Jeff Pang, and would go out to New York to visit those dudes. I went back a few times, and then on my 18th birthday, I moved to New York. That was in November of 2002.

Were you getting paid to skate at that point?

Zoo paid for the house that I moved into, but I wasn’t getting paid.

How did the house come together?

The house was on Broadway and Fulton Street. I wanted to move to the city, so I talked Zoo into getting a house for me, Brian Brown, and Billy Rohan at the time. Billy eventually moved out, and Brian’s brother, Doug, moved in. He was the main one filming us back then. Lou [Sarowsky] would stay over a lot, too. People would always come to town and crash, whoever was around skating.

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Incentive Zoning


The Ocean Howell interview linked in Monday’s post reminded me of this bit from 2009’s Deathbowl to Downtown documentary — which apparently is $65 for a DVD copy on Amazon now and unavailable to stream anywhere?

Update: Stream it on Vimeo for two bucks.

Both the Howell interview and this bit discuss how cities will give developers a zoning pass / tax breaks on additional floors if they furnish the ground level of their property with a public plaza. The irony is that the plazas are often restricted to people who want to sit and eat lunch, i.e. a rather limited idea of what the “public” is. Nearly every piece of our European coverage has whined about how this is inconsistent with any Euro city we’ve visited, so I’ll spare you the recurring “America sucks for skateboarding” speech. There’s a lot of good early nineties Financial District and midtown footage in this segment, and by the looks of it, they were still busts then ;)

People gave Deathbowl a bit of a hard time when it came out — “the narration was heavy handed,” “the 90s were too focused on Zoo York,” etc. — but skateboarders will dig anywhere to complain. When I got the DVD in 2010, I was a month into nursing probably the closest you could sprain an ankle without needing medical attention. I finished watching it at maybe 2 A.M (on a school night!), yet still got the urge to grab a cruiser, and skate over the 59th Street Bridge to go up and down little hills on the westside til the sun started to come up. Can’t say a proper skate video has relayed that unshakeable “I really need to go skate”-feeling the same way since.

It was fun rewatching it to find this clip, you should give it a whirl.

Three Up, Three Down

Theotis Beasley – Backside Flip at the Wall Street Gap – Photos by Zach Malfa-Kowalski

The crew got a bit bigger, so it became necessary to make a round of stops on the Downtown circuit, the one with all the name brand spots that people fly here from all over the world for, only to find themselves terribly disappointed. The Chinatown Double-Set yielded a crew of non-skate-friendly Red China supporters, you get kicked out of the Courthouse pretty quickly these days (probably because companies started bribing the security there into being more aggressive with kick outs, in hopes of diminishing one-up possibilities of prominent two-page spread advertisements), it’s always good to stop by Black Hubba and remind yourself that the stairs there are actually pretty decent as well, and the C.I.A. Ledge has gotten the official, Barcelonian seal of approval as “The Best Ledge in New York.”

If you follow this site, you’ll notice that we pretty much skate none of these spots. Partially because they are in immense physical commitment, part because they’re boring unless the right people skate them, and also because when you pass by something every weekend for ten years, you start to get kind of bummed on it, and want to demand your “space.” It’s the sort of thing that marriages fall apart over after seemingly going so well. C.I.A. Ledge, of course, is the main exception to this statement though.

To bring the footage in these clips down to the QS level, we had to skate some routine QS spots. Places that nobody in their right mind ever bothers stopping at, like the Fat Alberts Ledge, that stupid highway divider to hill in the last QS clip, or the beloved three-up three-down. Apparently, there is an Eastern European patrol man there now that intended on making it in the UFC, but took a wrong turn and wound up in the Parks Department.

Clip and additional photos embedded after the jump. Had to take a page from the book of World Star for the branding, which might become a common practice due to goons (probably also in Eastern Europe) pulling jack-moves on the clips. If we’re trying to become the World Star of skateboarding, we’re going to have to take more cues from their practices.

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