Photo by Zach Baker
[Part one here, part two here]
When celebrating the virtues of skate-friendly cities like Copenhagen, it’s important to remember that they didn’t become that way by accident. A place like Denmark may not have the vehement sue-happy culture we do, but there’s still a long process to build a utopia. People with college degrees and sophisticated understandings of architecture, city planning, etc. — who also happen to skateboard — fought for that shit. Many cities are slowly starting to recognize skateboarding as something more productive than spraypainting on a wall or pissing in a corner. Now the next step is figuring the subtleties out. “Maybe a blind-built pre-fab park isn’t the best idea…”
When presented with a chance to do something permanent with the locals in Providence, it didn’t make sense for it to be an exclusive keyholder type of project. It also didn’t make sense to add on to an existing skatepark; they have a whole community already doing a good job at keeping that flame lit.
Filmed by Dan Mcgrath and Johnny Wilson.
Adrian Hall Park, across the street from the Trinity Repertory Theater in downtown Providence, has been a stop for skaters since the early nineties. It has a platform to do tricks off, some steps, and a curb — not a great spot, but enough to keep interest when you get the boot out of everywhere else downtown and are willing to settle on skating anything, insofar as you don’t get hassled. Beyond the skaters, there usually isn’t a whole lot going on in the park. It’s not scenic, as it’s on a side street next to a parking garage: a perfect place to drink a brown-bagged beer or take a nap on some cardboard if you don’t have anywhere to be that night. It was also a solid candidate to be turned into something more than just a barren stone park.
Photo by Pad Dowd
One of the byproducts of New England’s tightly-knit park scene is that it created a generation of locals who are resourceful and good with their hands. There’s not always a park being built, but if you look hard enough, there’s always an opportunity for a one-off in a forgotten crevice of the city. These will range from the equivalent of what we know in New York as works of “Jerry Duty,” to micro spots that stuff one-tenth of a skatepark into a cleared out corner behind an industrial zone.
A lot of these spots aren’t under some main bridge, or in a well-traversed warehouse district, e.g. how the B.Q.E. spot is a fully public D.I.Y. creation. Maybe a guy knows a guy who knows a guy, and he’ll give skaters free reign over a hidden patch of land to the side of his building before he figures out just what the hell he’s going to do with it. The results become a bowl corner next to a factory’s crumbling smokestack, or a wavy spine concoction built over an out-of-commission gas pipe that even National Grid doesn’t know the deal with. Barring a few anomalies, the northeast isn’t equipped for long lasting full-fledged D.I.Y. skateparks like more spacious parts of the country are. People have been living on top of each other for hundreds of years here; spots like these are left to make do with the leftover crumbs of the city.
Filmed by Johnny Wilson & Max Palmer. Alternate YouTube Link.
The most insane example involved a thirty-minute drive from downtown Providence, until you pull up to a dilapidated building in a neighborhood that has nothing but liquor stores. If you’ve seen that movie Prisoners, it’s basically like that building where Hugh Jackman takes the guy to torture him.
Photo by Zach Baker
It is no secret that we spend an inordinate amount of time in caged in, flat spaces. And it is no secret — as much as we may try to glamorize it — that it gets old after a while. With open road season in the northeast coming to a close, we hit I-95 one last time this fall. Except rather than going to surefire crutches like Eggs or Pulaski, we aimed for something a little different, and a little less…flat. We loaded up the three or five people in the crew adequately versed in skating transition for an atypical QS journey. We went to concrete skateparks, and ended up leaving something permanent behind us in the end (more on that later.)
The concrete skatepark is a relatively new phenomenon in New York. Sure, Owl’s Head has been there for a decade-and-a-half, but the recent surge in parks popping up everywhere is only ~five years old. It also came after we spent much of the 2000s languishing in pre-fab purgatory. Even then, if you heard some of the stories from people tasked with negotiating the skaters’ side in building a park, you’d want to strangle yourself with the red tape. We have one of the three largest city economies in the world; the level of bureaucracy that comes with each one we’re fortunate enough to have is unparalleled. Hopefully, the stadium-lit volleyball courts out on Tribeca piers have an easier time getting built…
Filmed by Johnny Wilson & Max Palmer. Alternate YouTube link.
New England embraced outdoor and public concrete parks long before we did. That’s mostly due to two people: Sloppy Sam, who founded Breaking Ground Skateparks, and Jeff Paprocki, who now owns Paprocki Concrete & Masonry. Both of them navigated the laws and public works departments that vary between every New England town to create much of the vast network of parks that exists up there today. Once you stop by Frank Pepe’s in New Haven and make it into the eastern half of Connecticut, it’s possible to spend the day hitting three or four unique parks, all thanks to these dudes. They aren’t “D.I.Y.” creations in the grey understanding that we have of that phrase, but it’s obvious they wouldn’t exist without the saintly proactive efforts of a few individuals. “It’s all about knowing the right person to talk to.” And also having the right crew around you.