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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: October 6, 2003
Byline: Dan Geringer


Boarders LOVE that they can skate park again

Banished from LOVE Park since 2001, several hundred skateboarders rallied at City Hall yesterday and cheered mightily when told the city will let them return to their mecca within days.

City Controller Jonathan Saidel informed the 400 jubilant skateboarders that Managing Director Phil Goldsmith told him that a compromise would be finalized "in a few days" that would answer their plea to "Free LOVE Park!"

"If we ain't about love, we ain't about nothing!" Saidel shouted.

"Am I right?"

The skateboarders told him that he was right.

Daily News columnist Carla "Urban Warrior" Anderson received three ovations for her campaign to bring skateboarding back to LOVE Park.

Andrew Hohns, whose Young Involved Philadelphia is part of the grass-roots coalition negotiating with the city to bring the boarders back, called LOVE Park "a place to which thousands every year have made the pilgrimage" to enjoy "the freedom of flying and gliding across surfaces previously made for sitting and walking."

Hohns proved how in tune he was with his environment when, upon hearing the City Hall bell toll 2 o'clock, immediately said, "As you can hear, the bell is tolling and the time is here for change!"

He confirmed Saidel's announcement that a compromise solution with the city is near.

The longest, warmest cheers of the hour-long rally were awarded to 93-year-old Edmund Bacon — venerable Philadelphia city planner, LOVE Park's designer and skateboarding supporter.

Bacon chided Mayor Street for spending "a million dollars of the taxpayers' money" to keep skateboarders out of LOVE Park by changing its physical structure.

"What did he change?" Bacon said dryly.

"He put in some nice pink/purple planters" to "get rid of the skateboarders." Instead, Bacon said, the creative skateboarders simply adapted their techniques to the new environment "and kept right on going."

"The entire structure and purpose of the million dollars proved to be completely worthless," Bacon said.

After the rally, Bacon told the Daily News he "sees this struggle as symbolic of skateboarders' connection to their environment."

He called them "the beginning of an entirely new civilization" that was able to scale the walls that the mayor built to stop them.

After the rally, some "Free LOVE Park!" chanters went over to do just that, while a hundred others skated to Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

Skateboarders respectfully lined both sides of the 19-step stairwells to watch daredevils like Justin Crean, 16, of Northeast Philadelphia, skateboard down the handrails at break-neck speed and somehow land upright.

Others flung themselves through the air over Dilworth Plaza's 6-step stairs and survived crash landings that were not for the squeamish.

No one wore safety helmets. No one seemed to break anything vital.

No cops appeared.

No arrests were made. It was that kind of "good vibrations" Sunday afternoon on the eve of LOVE Park's impending independence.

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