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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: December 1, 2003
Byline: Editorial

Editorial: No Room For Skateboarders

Must Dilworth be off limits, too?

Here's some breaking news on Philadelphia's skateboarding front.

No, the city hasn't decided to let skateboarders back into LOVE Park. Negotiations drag on with no resolution in sight.

You might call it just a lot of LOVE labor lost.

The news concerns City Hall's Dilworth Plaza, which became a skateboarding hangout after LOVE was effectively shut down.

City Managing Director Philip Goldsmith says he now plans to de-skatify Dilworth. He has been in contact with a Seattle company selling an impressive range of "SkateBlock" products — all kinds of bars, discs, nuts and bolts to stick on rails and ledges to render them unskateable. As the city works up cost estimates on the new anti-skating measures, he said, it also plans to post Dilworth with new warning signs prohibiting skateboarding.

What's wrong with this new skateboarding shoo-away?

On the face of it, it seems fair. Dilworth, a heavily used walkway outside City Hall, isn't a good place for skateboarders and pedestrians to mix. But the skateboarders wouldn't have thronged to Dilworth if the city had done the right thing and allowed them to remain at nearby LOVE, officially called JFK Plaza.

Let's not forget history here: LOVE was a derelict park, used mainly by derelicts, until skateboarders discovered it in the early '90s and made it an international skateboarding mecca. Many skateboarding stars honed their skills there; they made LOVE famous and made Philadelphia, for once, appear a hip place where young people might actually want to live.

Those priceless public pluses meant nothing to Mayor Street, though, who had LOVE redesigned with some ugly pink planters and had skaters kicked out for good.

Since then, a determined and savvy skateboarding network has been pushing an utterly reasonable compromise: Let skateboarders use LOVE later in the day, they say, when lunchers are gone, and on weekends. Skateboarders themselves vow to raise money to hire park security and fix any damages, and they say they already have $28,000 pledged.

Goldsmith, the city's chief negotiator on this, is being unreasonably cool to the plan. He suggests skateboarders be confined to one section of LOVE near the empty visitors' center. But that would be like asking the Eagles to play in one tiny corner of Lincoln Field.

If the city really has no intention of allowing skateboarders back at LOVE — as it increasingly appears — officials at least owe them the decency of a yes or no decision.

But even if it's a "no," skateboarders say they won't give up trying to reclaim LOVE. A week ago, 400 or so of them packed a University of the Arts auditorium to see a new nationally produced video on LOVE's loss. It made skateboarders all the more determined. And it didn't do Philadelphia proud. homepage

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