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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: November 10, 2003
Byline: Carla Anderson

When will skaters roam LOVE Park?

NOW THAT the dust of a contentious campaign has settled, and Mayor Street can once again focus on running this city, it seems appropriate to ask:

When will skateboarders be allowed back in to LOVE Park?

Last we checked, Mayor Street had referred a possible compromise on the contentious issue to his managing director, Phil Goldsmith.

The idea, which called for skateboarders to share the park with the lunch crowd by waiting until late afternoon to pull out their boards, quickly caught on among city leaders who harbor a soft spot for the city's youth culture.

"It's a very interesting idea and one that we recommend the city really take a look at," said Maxine Griffith, executive director of the city planning commission. "Using time to separate the uses of the park, quite frankly, is not an idea we had thought of."

But Goldsmith, the man Street put in charge of making it happen, has yet to commit.

"I continue to try to see whether there's a compromise there that makes sense," he said.

Seems to me we've already got the compromise. What we need is for the city to accept it.

The political tide appears to have turned on this issue. A majority of City Council members now see an economic benefit to the skateboard mecca, as well as a social one.

"We should remember that skateboarding is not illegal, and that the kids needs a place to skate," said Jannie Blackwell, majority leader on city council.

"I don't think you can create an artificial park somewhere that can do what LOVE Park can do," said Councilman David Cohen, referring to a current plan to build a new skatepark on the banks of the Schuylkill. "I understand that there are competing interests here, but as Council members we often deal with such conflicts.

"And I put the interests of the skateboarders pretty high. The younger people are so often put off into a corner."

Also, some of our most financially savvy leaders think skating in LOVE Park makes sense.

City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who understands the economic possibilities of this lucrative sport and the internationally famous niche it had carved out in the central city square, went so far as to promise victory at a recent skateboard rally on Dilworth Plaza.

"I'm a convert, I'm ready," Saidel explained. "I'm getting my baggy pants and my skateboard to show these kids what extreme is all about."

Dan Keating, one of the city's leading developers and owner of the adjacent Phoenix apartment building, said teenagers and their sport are an integral part of his vision for the city.

"I'm a firm believer that this parkway could become our own Champs Elysee," Keating said, referring to a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the park proposed by Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District Development Corp.

"And it all starts or ends with LOVE Park," he said. "The more we can do to make it attractive for everyone, the better off we'll be. And the moment we start telling people that they can't use it, we have a problem. I'd love nothing more than to see people eating their lunch there, playing chess, riding on skateboards, or just sitting and staring into the fountain."

I must say I agree. But if we're going to act, we must act now.

The longer we let LOVE Park's iconic status lie dormant, the smaller our chances of reaping its potential benefits become.

But if we play our cards right, Philadelphia could seize the moment and position itself as the East Coast capital of extreme urban sports — with LOVE Park as a start. homepage

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