Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: March 24, 2004
Byline: Michael Currie Schaffer
Phila. alters Dilworth Plaza to cut its skateboarding appealThe city yesterday introduced cleats and discs on railings and benches at Dilworth Plaza that are designed to render it useless as a skateboarding venue.
The metal attachments set up at the plaza, located on the 15th Street side of City Hall, make it difficult for skateboarders to perform tricks.
New signs also warn that skateboarding, bicycling, and in-line skating are prohibited.
In the latest salvo from the battle to keep skateboarders out of the city's public spaces, Philadelphia Managing Director Philip R. Goldsmith said the changes, which cost $6,500, are designed to protect pedestrians and to reduce the property damage he said came from skateboarding.
"This is destruction of public property," Goldsmith said. "It would be a far greater cost to the city to do nothing."
Deputy Managing Director Jim Donaghy said the city had paid $8,500 to replace seven stainless-steel railings damaged by skateboarding. He said that the damage to granite benches was "in the tens of thousands of dollars."
Scott Kip of the Skateboard Advocacy Network said the move sent a hostile message to young people at a time when Philadelphia was trying to increase its appeal to that demographic. City officials spent the last several days scrambling to bring back to Philadelphia MTV's The Real World, which many said would advertise the city to young potential residents.
"As a message to young people, it's not a good thing," said Kip, whose group has advocated the return of skateboarding to LOVE Park, which was declared off-limits to the sport two years ago.
Goldsmith said the introduction of skate-stopping technology to Dilworth Plaza had nothing to do with the debate over LOVE Park.
Goldsmith and several city planning officials met Monday with advocates of reopening the park. Both sides expressed hope for a compromise.
"He's been flexible," Kip said.
Goldsmith said the changes at Dilworth Plaza should not be construed as anti-skateboard. He said the city had prepared brochures pointing out 22 legal skateboarding locations in the Philadelphia region. And he noted plans for a new city-owned skateboard park near the Art Museum.
"There is a time and place for everything," Goldsmith said.
But Kip said that much of the major damage to benches in the plaza came not from skateboarders but from BMX bicyclists.
"Skateboarders don't like BMXers because they ruin the edges and make it hard to skateboard," he said. "There's a lot of conflict even within the subculture."
At a news conference where he announced the changes, Goldsmith was joined by Steven Brody, co-owner of Title 10 Skatepark, an indoor venue in Old City. Touting his park as "a tremendous asset to skaters and their parents," Brody offered a 50 percent membership discount to all skateboarders. He said he would donate the membership fees to the city for use on skateboard programs.
Kip speculated that Brody's park, named after the city ordinance prohibiting skateboarding in public parks, might lose credibility with some skateboarders for being "in cahoots" with the crackdown on street skateboarding.
"I'm not in cahoots with anybody," Brody responded. "If a kid wants to skate in the street and get chased by the police, that's his business."