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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: May 31, 2003
Byline: Dave Davies


Katz: Give LOVE Park back to boarders

It's not often you see a Republican running on a "free love" platform.

But mayoral candidate Sam Katz's aim in this case is to free LOVE Park from the city's ban on skateboarders.

"I believe we can restore LOVE Park and liberate LOVE Park and again make it the skateboard capital of the world," Katz said yesterday at the LOVE sculpture on JFK Square, "and bring back to Philadelphia an image of a city that's open and wants young people."

Katz condemned Mayor Street for shutting down skateboarding at the park after the city hosted the X-Games. The city's $800,000 renovation at the park last summer put planter boxes where skateboarders rode, and left police to shoo them away from the stones around the park's fountain.

Joining Katz were retired city planner Ed Bacon, who designed the park in the 1930s, and exiled skateboarders hoping to return to their former shrine.

"I don't know, I think it's awesome what you're trying to do," said 18-year-old Bill Orsi, who credited skateboarding with saving his life. "I think it will definitely help the city out a lot."

Katz's news conference was observed by six uniformed police officers, who made no arrests when Katz briefly rode a skateboard for photographers.

Katz said skateboarding is a $1.5 billion industry, and private funds could be used to redesign the park for skateboarders and "those who want to come and eat lunch, read a book and have a leisure experience."

"This is an industry that creates enormous marketing opportunities," Katz said. "I believe there are companies that would kill for the chance to identify their corporate interests with LOVE Park and help us, through a public/private partnership, fund the constitution of this park.

Mark Nevins, spokesman for Street's re-election campaign, said the city's policy protects others who use the park.

"The same argument would be made if people were trying to play baseball or football here," Nevins said. "It a park for people, not just skateboarders."

Developer Daniel Keating, who renovated and lives in the new Phoenix apartments across the street, said that skateboarding is fun but that it doesn't fit in the area around the LOVE fountain.

"It's intimidating, particularly to someone who is older or frail, to see a big, young kid coming at you on a skateboard, on the sidewalk or over the railing," Keating said.

Keating said a redesigned park could accommodate both, particularly if the now-empty visitors center in the park were demolished and the space reused.

Christine Ottow, a spokeswoman for Street, said the city studied the idea of locating a restaurant in the center, and is considering the options.

Meanwhile, the administration continues to pursue plans for a skateboarding park along the Schuylkill below the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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