Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: May 23, 2003
Byline: Carla Anderson
DN Poll: Show some LOVE for skateboarders69% OF READERS SAY LET THEM BACK IN PARK
WHEN IT comes to LOVE Park and skateboarders, early results of a Daily News online poll would suggest that the majority does not rule here in Philadelphia.
Last night, 719 people - or 69 percent of the 1,041 people who had voted as of 10 p.m. - said they believed skateboarders should be allowed back into the park. Another 322 people, or 31 percent, said no.
Based on this admittedly unscientific data, it appears that less than a third of the people are now controlling the recreational habits of the rest.
Still, Mayor Street, who's sticking by his decision to close the park to skateboarders, doesn't seem to care about what this poll suggests.
"A serious poll is a scientific thing, and we could hardly say this one reliably measures how people feel," said Christine Ottow, spokeswoman for Street. "And we're approached by people all the time who say they really like the renovations at the park, and what we did there."
But I say the gap is big enough to raise serious questions about whether we did the right thing when we spent $1 million to close the park off to skateboarders.
And what about the lineup of city leaders, all of whom are generally acknowledged to be both sane and intelligent, who think Street is missing the larger picture when it comes to LOVE Park? About the fact that an online petition to reopen the park, www.UShistory.org/lovepark, got more than 150 signatures during its first day of operation?
How about Ed Bacon, the revered city leader, who feels so strongly about this issue that he recently hoisted his aging body up onto a skateboard in the park?
Or there's this sentiment, offered yesterday by a Daily News reader:
"On a visit to California, my wife was revered by her friend's teenagers because she worked one block from LOVE Park. I was not, although I worked one block from the Liberty Bell."
Or this, from a reader in Abliene, Texas:
"I feel so connected to [LOVE Park] just by being a skateboarder. In our magazines, not an issue will go by without featuring a photo, write up, or RIP mention of LOVE. It is by far Philly's most well-known and recognizable asset among the skateboard community...It is a modern day skateboard Mecca."
Then there's the lively discussion now happening on philly.com's online discussion of the topic. (The following excerpts have been edited for length but are available in full on the site.)
"I understand the history of skateboarding in Philly, but it is no longer appropriate. Although I enjoy watching them skate, it ruins the beauty of the park, and the noise is very disturbing, especially during lunchtime."
This is followed by:
"Hmm, peace and quiet in the middle of the city? Shouldn't you be somewhere else for peace and quiet? Should we get rid of companies, so there will be less people, so you have peace and quiet?"
"I don't skateboard but just find it funny. Are you serious? Go eat some other place and leave the kids alone. Stop being selfish and let the kids skate."
Then there's this attitude:
"Even a casual inspection of the LOVE Park area will reveal serious wear damage resulting from skateboarding. This is clearly destruction of public property and should not be permitted."
Quickly followed by this one:
"LOVE Park is famous worldwide. Would we tell runners they can't jog up the steps of the Art Museum? Would we throw away the Liberty Bell? When something makes your city famous, and attracts tourists and millions of dollars worldwide, you see it's a positive thing and figure out how to make it work."
My favorite, so far, is one that avoids demonizing either side and seeks a way to have both a lunch park and a skate park.
"I agree that it is noisy and bothersome to the lunch crowd, and agree that it causes some wear. We need parks in the city where people can relax. However, the city has a number of conveniently-located parks, but not many good skate spots. LOVE Park is famous, and as a skateboarding attraction, is important for the city.
"The best solution would be to re-open the park to skateboarders, and invest in the area immediately surrounding City Hall. Dilworth Plaza is a dump. Those areas could easily be turned into great little parks, perfect for the lunch crowd."
Street can't prove it, but he says most people like the park his way.
But there are serious reasons why skateboarders in LOVE Park should be considered a valuable asset, and serious people - as well as voters - are raising them.
So I say he should at least do the research.
Bring in a marketing expert who can measure the economic benefits of the recognition it brings us against the overall cost to city taxpayers. Find out whether LOVE Park can actually help attract and keep more college students, or whether skateboarding can actually help keep kids off drugs.
Because our mayor might be wrong on this one.
And if he is, it's the people who will pay the price.