Date: May 30, 2003
Katz Vows To Reopen Love Park To Skaters If Elected(AP) Sam Katz wiggled and wobbled and finally fell all in the name of politics.
The Republican mayoral candidate awkwardly hopped on a skateboard, then fell, after announcing Friday that if elected he would "restore" and "liberate" Love Park by reopening it to skateboarders.
"I'm here today to lend my support to the many young people in this city, and their parents and families and community organizations, that want to liberate Love Park and make it again a center of skateboarding and youth vitality," Katz said.
The pledge puts him at odds with his opponent, Mayor John F. Street, who last year ordered the park - world renowned among skateboarders - temporarily closed for renovations and began strictly enforcing an existing ban on skateboarding.
Speaking at a news conference at the park, and flanked by a handful of skateboarders, Katz said he would seek out corporate sponsors who could help shoulder the cost of making skating-friendly changes to the plaza.
"I believe that there are companies both here in Philadelphia and national organizations who would kill for the chance to identify their corporate interests with Love Park," Katz said.
JFK Plaza, known as Love Park because it is home to the well-known Robert Indiana sculpture, is regarded as a skateboarding mecca. Skaters have said the stair cases, ledges and curves make it an ideal spot.
Katz said allowing skateboarders to use the plaza would demonstrate the city's interest in attracting young adults.
"If they feel that Philadelphia is a place that's inviting and welcoming to them, it'll be a place that they want to live in as they get older," he added.
Katz jokingly showed off his skateboarding skills or lack thereof before and after the briefing, even falling to the ground at one point.
Several skateboarders said they welcomed Katz's plan.
"I think it's awesome what he's trying to do. I think it'll definitely help out the city in more ways than one," said Bill Orsi, 18, a Temple University student.
Edmund Bacon, the 93-year-old urban planner who designed the plaza decades ago, said he thought the park should be open to skateboarders.
"It's very amazing that this issue of whether or not young people can enjoy themselves should have finally come into focus in this very, very important political campaign," Bacon said.
But the Street administration said the skateboarders caused significant damage to the granite and that the park looks better with its new grass, benches and plants.
"The city has baseball parks for people who like to play baseball. They have basketball parks for people who like to play basketball," said Mark Nevins, a mayor's office spokesman. "The city will create a skateboard park for people who like to skateboard. Love Park is not a skateboard park. It's the people's park, and it will remain the people's park."