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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: July 23, 2003
Byline: Carla Anderson


Skateboarders draft a LOVE Park plan

THANK GOD for Philadelphia's idealistic young activists.

Who else would dare do battle with the middle-aged lunkheads who banned skateboarding in LOVE Park?

I'm thrilled to report that a small band of twentysomething skateboarders, professionals and entrepreneurs has come up with a savvy plan to bring the sport back to the park — without hurting the city lunch crowd or city taxpayers.

They call themselves the Skateboard Advocacy Network, and they're starting to get some political support.

City Councilman Rick Mariano bucked his usual support of the Mayor — who has opposed skateboarding in the park — to call for the skaters' return.

Now, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who also often votes with Mayor Street, has broken ranks to advocate for the group's skating plan, calling it "truly a fresh idea."

"This is a reasonable compromise for all the stakeholders on this issue," Reynolds Brown told me yesterday. "I am in the process of setting up a meeting with the city planning commission to see whether they'd be willing to have an open mind and see this plan as doable."

Phew. Finally, someone in charge of this great city decided to open their ears and listen.

The plan, outlined by Andrew Hohns, 25-year-old ringleader of the effort and a former candidate for state representative, would:

  • Bring back some marble benches and remove some new planters to make the park friendly to skaters again.

  • Restrict skating hours to after 3 p.m.

  • Put steel tips or coats of polymer on marble surfaces so they won't get worn by constant grinding.

  • Deter LOVE Park skaters from migrating to nearby office buildings with stiffer penalties and more strict enforcement.

  • Establish a nonprofit "Friends of LOVE Park" organization, to raise money to maintain and improve the newly-skate-friendly park — functioning much like the "Friends of Rittenhouse Square."

These ideas seem not just sensible, but fair and inclusive.

City workers get to eat their lunch in peace, skaters get to do tricks after school lets out, downtown property owners aren't left to cope with the skaters who migrate to their marble steps. And taxpayers wouldn't get stuck with the cost of upkeep.

It's also one of our best, and most immediate, chances to welcome the generation of young people this shrinking city so desperately needs.

Just ask Tom Atencio, of Boston.

"I was actually going to move to Philadelphia just to skate LOVE, but since its demise, I settled on Boston instead," he wrote.

Like most issues with any kind of constituency behind them, LOVE Park has gotten mixed up in Philadelphia's current campaign for mayor.

Candidate Sam Katz has said he'd reopen the park to skateboarders if he wins in November, soliciting corporate sponsors to pay for it. He views LOVE Park as an important icon for one of the nation's fastest growing sports, and an important asset to the city's national and international image.

Mayor Street, who made the $1 million decision to re-landscape the park so skaters couldn't use it, has said he wants to keep it safe for people who want to sit there and eat their lunch. But his spokeswoman, Christine Ottow, said yesterday he would "certainly take a look" at this proposal.

I hope that both candidates know to grab a good thing when they see it.

Because I agree with Reynolds Brown:

"This is truly out-of-the-box thinking, and it's great that it's coming from young people," she said. "It's really worth it for the policy wonks of the world to take a minute and sit down to read their proposal."

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