By Danny Parks 04.17.01
New York City has come a long way since I've been riding. If you were a ramp rider back in the 80's, it was pretty difficult to find anything to ride, and if you did, it usually didn't last too long. So, after mainly riding flatland for 9 years, I moved away to southern California in 1989 to go check out the "mecca" of freestyle that I had seen in the magazines for so many years, only to come back home a couple of years later and find that an amazing public skatepark in the Bronx had opened up.
Built by bikers and only the second ever in this borough, Mullaly Skatepark, was a free, public place to go ride ramps where you could come back the next day and the ramps might even still be there, not burned down, stolen, or vandalized. The first public skatepark in the Bronx, in Van Cortlandt Park, had been around briefly years earlier but had suffered it's demise around the same time that the BMX industry took a dive in the late 80's.
Jump ahead about 10 years and the scene again is thriving. For a guy like me who doesn't ride flatland much anymore, I have a good choice of places to go if I want to find a ramp. There are 4 skateparks in the 5 boroughs now, all allowing bikes, with a 5th to have the official grand opening any minute now.
Mullay, in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium is the oldest and probably least funded of all the parks, but still offers the urban, Boogie Down Bronx flair that you would expect and only receive from such. Here is where New York's most well known Pros, including Jay Rodriquez, Danny Parks, Dave "Little Man" Garcia, and UND Lou Perez have all honed their skills. Today this park has some of the most talented young local riders of any place I've ever been, so if you go there and expect to find kids riding around with a vice-grip wrench on the seatpost and Chicago-style bars way forward, well, you'll probably find that too…but, the good local riders WILL school you. Though, if you get to know them, you will have one of the funnest sessions you've had in a while.
Riverside Park(108th street and Riverside Drive), on the other hand, due to it's proximity to the local wealthy, upper west-siders, is probably the best funded of all the skateparks in the city, and it shows. Built and designed by a local skateboarder and his crew, the transitions there are some of the smoothest and best maintained, with the 6 to 7 foot tall, 40ft wide mini being the choice ramp there. To get in good runs you have to get there early, unless you love being overrun by in-line kids. If you like old-school flavor, there is an 11ft tall, bi-level vert ramp with pool coping on one side that's fun to flow on.
With a newly-redesigned-this-March park, Chelsea Piers on 23rd street in Manhattan, offers a range of different lines from an assortment of ramps including, but definitely not limited to, a 6ft hip/quarter, 6ft. street spine, and an 11ft tall vert ramp.
Queens is represented by Union Skatepark, and Brooklyn will be getting down with their soon-to-open park in Bay Ridge. This one is said to have a couple of minimum 6ft. concrete bowls thrown in the mix, and designed by the same brain behind Riverside Park, it should be pretty interesting.
If I want to have a street session, there is never a problem. Go down to Union Square Park on 17th street in Manhattan, and you can almost always find someone from New Jersey or elsewhere there wanting to ride. And as I heard a skateboarder long ago once say, "New York City is the biggest natural skatepark in the world", thus you will never be short of a ledge, or rail, or stair gap, if that's your fancy.
Sorry, there's not much dirt in the urban jungle, but if you look hard and check your sources, you might find a set of trails or three in the outer boroughs.
The New York City riding scene has always been around and will always be around, hardcore and thriving, whether or not the media or others choose to recognize. If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Big Bad Apple and decide to venture on in, I hope your experience will be as diverse as everything the City has given(or thrown) at me all the years I've spent there. I wouldn't change a thing.