A ribbon-cutting was held at Laurelton Playground Skate Park on Friday after it had received $1.8 million in upgrades, a skate island, new equipment and an extension.
“We knew this was desperately needed,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who allocated $600,000 towards the park. “The important part of today is that it was a community effort.”
Community Board 13, Rosedale Civic, the Federated Blocks of Laurelton, the 226 Block Association and members of the local and regional Parks Department were also present at the ribbon-cutting.
“We get together and talk a lot about what neighborhoods to make sure that communities have places to come that are safe, places to come with open space, a place for our seniors to hang out, a place for our toddlers and also for our teenagers and young people so that they can partake in a sport that they care deeply about, and we also know that skateboarding is one of those sports.”
Other than the skate park, there were several additions made to the park, according to the new NYC Parks Queens Borough Commissioner Michael Dockett.
“Along with the addition of a skate park, the entrance was transformed and now provides a welcoming feeling stitching this site into the neighborhood and the surrounding park,” said Dockett. “We also installed new fitness equipment and a walking path so that residents can exercise without going outside their neighborhood.”
Ten laps around the walking path equal a mile, according to Dockett.
“There is a new drinking fountain so that skaters, children and joggers can all enjoy a drink,” said Dockett. “Parks like this one supports all generations of the community, help us to grow and gives us a place to play and relax, and they bring neighbors together.”
Design Director Diane Dreier and Adrienne Wormchuck, a designer, put the concept together for the park based on input from this community and the contractor was William Gross Construction.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) were also at the ribbon-cutting on Oct. 25.
“I love the fences that are up here, I remember they weren’t welcoming before and a lot of the times the kids didn’t want to come to play here because it felt far removed,” said Hyndman. “It is not lost on me that this is October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We talk about health and wellness and this park does that for a lot of children.”
The park is a favorite of Richards’ 3-year-old son, according to the councilman, who allocated $1.1 million to the park.
“Today’s accomplishment in ensuring that this park is more open to our community is certainly a worthy step,” said Richards. “I want to thank [Mayor Bill de Blasio] for kicking in some money too for Parks Without Borders where we are taking gates of because gates give the illusion of less openness to a park.”
The Parks Without Borders initiative reimagines the designs of parks by extending them out into streets, sidewalks and park-adjacent spaces, therefore making them easier to find, greener and more inviting to local communities, according to nycgovparks.gov.
The park also has a seatwall, more social seating areas and enhanced landscaping, according to Richards’ office.
“Now you come in here you can’t find a slide to get on because of the investments that were made,” said Richards. “I want to talk about skateboarding for a second because we always have this illusion in our community that when you see skateboard parks that it is not reflective of a sport that is necessarily utilized in black and brown communities.”
However, that is simply not true, as Tyshawn Jones, a black New York City native, is considered one of the current premier skaters in the country, according to Richards.
Richards later tried to get lessons on the skate island after the ribbon-cutting but crashed immediately and jokingly demanded worker’s compensation.
“I’m going to have to get a lawyer,” joked Richards.
Over the past couple of decades, skateboarding has grown among the black community, especially among Millenials, in urban areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York thanks to hip-hop artists like Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell Williams and Lil’ Wayne, according to Vibe Magazine.
Tony Hawke, a skateboarding legend, contributed to 569 skateboarding projects across the country between 2002 and 2015, according to the HuffPost to further aid in the proliferation of the sport in diverse communities.
In 2016, the International Olympic Committee approved of the sport for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
CB 13 District Manager Mark McMillan was happy about the upgrades and the skate park.
“You can literally come off the sidewalk and be a part of the park. Even though there is no fence, you feel safer because you feel integrated into the community, which is integrated into the park,” said McMillan.
I will get on a skateboard and I think I will do better than the councilmember.
Also, why shouldn’t this neighborhood have a skate park? Skateboarding is for everybody, there doesn’t have to be one particular nationality for the sport. Black communities shouldn’t only have basketball courts. Everybody should have equal access to everything and who knows, we might get a superstar from around here.”
Officers of the 105 Precinct were also happy about the park, but said they will stick to policing instead of skateboarding.