Director Crystal Moselle, who traced a family of Lower East Side shut-ins with her documentary The Wolfpack, is back in the public spotlight. This time, she’s touting a feature film instead of a documentary and hanging out with a feisty group of teen girls tearing up the skate parks and streets of the Lower East Side. Her new film, Skate Kitchen, depicts a fictionalized version of the lives of real skateboarders who captivate their 70,000-plus followers on Instagram with viral videos of skating tricks and gnarly wipe outs.
At the intersection of Baxter and Worth Streets, adjacent Columbus Park’s basketball courts, some olive-green workout equipment and a fire-engine red jungle gym sit unused. Plastic sheets cover the workout equipment and the jungle gym lays barren, practically begging buff dudes in muscle tees to do some pull-ups. A sign on the cordoned-off fence surrounding the site reads “Work in Progress.” But during a recent visit there were no workers or construction materials in sight.
This closure also comes as the latest offense for frequent skateboarders of the park who feared “grave consequences” when a fence was erected between the fitness units and an adjacent basketball court earlier this summer, thus limiting skaters’ ability to crisscross the park. Previously, skateboarders would skate up or down a two block ledge between the fitness area and the basketball courts, making for some gnarly video footage. Since the late 1990s, Columbus Park been known as a sweet unauthorized spot for skaters to hang without getting booted by the Parks Department. Though that may all change post-renovation.
The outdoor recreational facility has been closed down as part of a multi-site renovation effort, which also includes Chelsea Playground, in Staten Island, and the handball courts at Booker T. Washington Playground, on the Upper West Side. Unfortunately, due to unexpected conditions found at Columbus Park, the reconstruction project has been delayed and a revised layout issued to handle problems with measuring the site.
Barring any further impediments, the Columbus Park fitness units will be re-opened at the end of the summer, but it’s a bummer for Lower East Side skateboarders who often frequent the park. According to Quartersnacks.com, local skateboarding legend Robert “Bobby” Puleo put the spot on the map when he nailed a manual going down a kinked ledge at a much-more downtrodden Columbus Park circa 2000. Its hallowed reputation only grew in the mid-late 2000s. If you were any sort of halfway decent New York skater, you were expected to pay your respects with a session at Columbus Park rail.
In any case, for the time being, may we recommend Slappy Sundays at Boca LES instead?
On a chilly but pleasant afternoon, a group of people sat at tables in Soho art space Recess, poring over strips of film. One person scratches designs onto a strip, another adds metallic star-shaped stickers. Croatia-born artist Željka Blakšić, who also uses the name Gita Blak, has been conducting what she calls a “direct filmmaking workshop.” In it, 16mm film strips are directly altered through the use of collage, drawing, scratching, and other tactics. Each person’s customized film strip is individual, but soon they will all be assembled into one motley creation, fed into a projector, and screened for all its creators to behold.
After five long years of construction, Astor Place is back. Along with the refurbished Cube, the redesigned plaza includes new outdoor seating, fresh trees and landscaping, and restored lampposts from the Mosaic Man. But the new Alamo Plaza features a few additions that are unwelcome to some of its most loyal visitors: “no bike riding or skateboarding” signs spaced at regular intervals around the Cube. These days, simply carrying a skateboard near the Cube is enough to earn a suspicious glare and a warning from the security guards sometimes enforcing the ban. It wasn’t always this way—for generations of New York skaters, Astor Place was a landmark that held an iconic, if unlikely, place in the city’s skateboarding history.
In 2002, “Lurker” Lou Sarowsky moved to New York City with his longtime friend and fellow Cape Cod native Zered Bassett, into a now infamous, windowless apartment in Lower Manhattan. Sarowsky dubbed it the “Vicious Cycle” house, and his crew kept up a rigorous schedule of skateboarding all day and filming for Bassett’s indie-skate video of the same name, followed by nights of smoking, drinking, and playing pool.
One of skateboarding’s biggest commercial booms was in the 1980s. With their robust royalty checks and penchant for partying, many of the big name vert riders of the decade were legitimate rock stars. Unlike today, it wasn’t the contest money or shoe contracts that beefed up their bank accounts, but monthly board sales royalty checks that often exceeded 10K (put that in the inflation calculator). Sure, kids were consuming these boards because Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi were household names, but it was the actual board art that was the true marketing tool.
Hey, Greenpoint’s getting a shiny new park! Alright, technically it’s a “playground,” but with a new skate park, handball court and basketball court, hopefully it’ll make grownups want to come out and play, too. The major overhaul of tired old Sgt. William Dougherty Playground is scheduled to begin late next year, according to Department of Transportation officials, who announced the plans at a Community Board meeting last night.
With warm weather approaching, the Pier 35 esplanade, located under the FDR Drive overpass at the base of Clinton Street, is attracting skateboarders who are “terrorizing” LES residents, according to Manhattan Community Board 3; as a result, the board has called for increased enforcement of an area skateboarding ban that’s being blatantly ignored.
A line of skateboarders from their pre-teens to their 30s queued up this past Saturday, waiting up to an hour for “Professor” Paul Schmitt to saw their 9-ply rectangles of wood into custom skateboards. Hosted by Converse Cons at Chemistry Creative in Bushwick, Schmitt was part of a team that included Brooklyn-based designer Grotesk, and local pro skater Aaron Herrington, conducting a workshop titled, “Making & Designing Skate Decks,” as part of the Cons Project’s free community program.
While on sabbatical from the NYC winter in Puerto Rico and working on his latest “Illumignarly” video, NYC skateboarder and Samurai founder Billy Rohan received word that his 100 Gates Program had received a $30,000 grant from the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. A Chinatown resident and active neighborhood advocate, Rohan’s idea was to commission artists to decorate 100 roll-down gates connected to businesses in the LES.
Over the weekend a Los Angeles skate icon popped up in Williamsburg. A mini-replica of one of skateboarding’s sketchiest ‘90s skate spots was recreated in the space, behind the Commodore by Converse Cons, complete with a memorial plaque.
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Last November, photographer Matt Alberts loaded up his Airstream with three of his pals, a stock of chemicals, and a large format camera. The foursome took off south and hit Route 66, riding it all the way to California to document the “people who have dedicated their lives to skateboarding.”
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