The World’s Fair Unisphere area in Flushing Meadow Park is known for skateboarders grinding across its ledges or kickflipping on the signature blue cement. It has inspired millions to push on their boards. The skateboarding industry aims to leave a permanent mark there with the creation of a free skate park. The plan asks for the facility, which will cost over a million dollars, to be built over an unused mud field,abutting the Unisphere and U.S.T.A. Tennis Center.
The allure of the Unisphere’s fluid ride and breath-taking views attract local skateboarders in droves which is a problem for city officials who have attempted to ban skateboarding in many places throughout the city and the park to prevent property damage and injury to others.
“We are working on making a new skate park for skaters in the park while prohibiting them from certain areas to protect the space, skaters and other people from getting hurt,” said Jason Friez, administrator of special permits for Flushing Meadow Park.
He said skateboarding takes a toll on cement fixtures around the globe and riders could get hurt rolling over cracks in the cement.
“The office (Queens special permits department) asked me if there was any way of preventing skaters from using the area,” said Steve Rodriquez, the owner of 5Boro Skateboards and the head of the skate park project. “I told them that the only way to do that is to build something next to it that is more appealing for skateboarders so they will decide to ride in a different place.”
The initial discussion of building the skate park started between Rodriguez and the Queens special permits department last September. Now the city has tentative plans to renovate the fountain around the globe and the unused portions of the park, Rodriguez said. He has the support of the international skateboarding community and a list of financial backers from the industry who are ready to pay six to seven figures to see the skate plaza become a reality.
“My job is to make sure that the money gets spent the right way, be knowledgeable and have an answer to everything the city asks,” Rodriguez said. “The city doesn’t have to give us anything if they feel like it. They could give us just one bench in a park, then it’s our job to get the best freakin’ bench possible for the skateboarders.”
The city’s most expensive skate park, Rockaway Skate Park in Queens, was constructed from scratch in the fall of 2004 for little over $600,000 in taxpayer money. The vision that Rodriguez and his team have for Flushing Meadow Park is even more ambitious than anything previously built in the city since the funding will come from private donations and the park layout will involve recreation park engineers.
The skate park in Flushing Meadow Park would create give a sense of belonging to the local youth who are often viewed by law enforcement as common vandals for skateboarding.
“Growing up skateboarding was hard because law enforcement always sucked,” said Scot Schwartz, an amateur Queens skateboarder. “I got thrown out of so many places and harassed by security.”
The skate park would also be affordable alternative for city children. One ticket for a U.S. Open game is $88.00, and a Mets game starts at $18.00. A permit from the city to use a soccer or baseball field is $8.00 per hour with a $25.00 application fee.
“A free skate park in central Queens would be so positive for kids,” Geo Moya, another Queens skateboarder, said. “There would be a place for them to go after school to hang out with their friends. It would keep focus them away from all the stressful and negative things around them in a big city.”
Until then, the skateboarders will continue to ollie over the grate and grind the ledges around the Unisphere, waiting and hoping for their skate plaza.