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In the News Index

Source: Logan News Group
Date: July 9, 2003
Byline: Logan News Group


Skate boarders Say "We'd Like To Be Left Alone"

But, they aren't Alone In Advocacy Efforts

Philadelphia - July 9, 2003 — Hey, [Mayor] Leave those kids Alone...no they aren't the words to a remake of the Pink Floyd hit. It's a mandate from Skateboard Advocacy Network. Over 200 people packed into a room at the Seiss Community Center in Center City on Wednesday night to discuss the "Future of LOVE Park, and the controversial "ban" on skateboarding in Philadelphia. In recent weeks the fate of the park has become a campaign issue, and quite popular among the press. Known throughout the skateboarding community as the "Capital of Skate boarding" last year the park was closed and renovations to the park along with increased fines and aggressive policing have made LOVE Park virtually impossible to skate.

Public law 10-610 makes it "Illegal" to skate on any public property or private property. But, allows skateboarding on streets and on sidewalks in the city. Some attest to being harassed even for carrying a skateboard into LOVE Park or around the west plaza of City Hall known as Dilworth Plaza, the Mayor who saw City Planner Edmund Bacon's vision as a reality and built it in the 1940's. While the city argues that skate boarders damaged public property, and discouraged use of the park by non skaters, opponents of the ban say that LOVE Park became an internationally recognized symbol "Because of Skate Boarders" and that it attracted students, tourists and the X-games to be hosted here-for two years, an unprecedented event in any other American city. Should LOVE Park be reopened to skateboarding? Should the park continue to be 'protected' from such activity? LOVE had been formally named JFK Plaza for President John F. Kennedy in the 1960's but has been affectionately known world wide as "LOVE Park" primarily because skate boarders made it a famous "Skate Park." Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) a nonpartisan "think tank" hosted this forum to discuss some of the issues about the beloved LOVE Park.

Edmund Bacon, the father of the Bacon brothers, and one time City planning head in Philadelphia presented the plans for the park at 16th Street to then Mayor Dick Dilworth. Dilworth's "Streets Commissioner" was opposed to the plan saying "If you build this thing, traffic in downtown will come to a standstill." Dilworth built it! So, it seems LOVE was always destined to be controversial. But, now that controversy has a voice and a vehicle. Mayor Street closed the park and redesigned it last year-many say to "be unfriendly to skaters." His staffers confirm and deny that contention, depending on who you ask, and the day of the week and whether there are cameras rolling or not. Off the record-it's true, on the record his P.R. guy says "it ain't so." "LOVE was not redesigned to be skater unfriendly," he says.

Meanwhile, a lot of money was spent particularly on expensive brass plaques to prohibit skate boards in the one time mecca of skate boarders. A 24 hour Police guard stationed there says it's true, and tickets issued to those even walking around the perimeter with a skate board in their hands make it crystal clear that Philadelphia has no LOVE for skate boarders.

Oddly enough of the over 200 assembled at the forum on LOVE Park, only one voiced any opposition to skaters in the park. Panel member Dan Keating, a developer has written on behalf of skate boarders to mayor Street encouraging him to lift the ban. Sam Katz has vowed if elected to give LOVE back to skaters and Ed Bacon says "First you gotta get those damn cops outta there before you can do anything else." Bacon said, maybe half tongue-in-cheek, that "It should be declared an "International Zone" and then no U.S. Government agency would regulate it" referring to LOVE's International notoriety. Katz representative for policy and research Dan Pohlig says "Philadelphia should be known for something other than cheese steaks." But he said "Now, it's embarrassing that this world famous park was shut down by this administration! I'd settle for Philly being only known for cheese steaks now." Mitch Deighan is a civic activist from Northern Liberties; Deighan was one of the loudest voices in the Stadium sites search. his proposal for "Liberty Yards" was 'almost' accepted. He accuses the Street administration of being "corrupt" and "lacking vision." Making light of the fact that Street campaign representative Mark Nivens remained notably absent from the forum, Deighan said "I'm insulted that the mayor's representative didn't show up. What the city has done by closing down this park is steal people's dreams, and that is worse than any damage caused by skaters."

Ideas were exchanged. plans to modify the use of the park were presented, emotions ran high and any questions for the current administration went unanswered. The majority of opinion in the room was that LOVE Park, as it was, and to a degree, now, could still be an ideal 'skate park.' "We don't want it to look like a skate park" said one advocate and skate boarder. Several plans exist to 'replace' this loss with a "Skate Board Park" somewhere else. Scott Kip, Director of Skateboard Advocacy Network said "Most skate boarders would say we just want to be left alone. Not chased, not harassed, just leave us alone." Ed Bacon admits he never understood why his park attracted so many from so far and wide and says that LOVE Park "was Magic." Now the magic is gone and skaters and their proponents want to restore the magic and breathe life into the park once again. One skater referred to Philadelphia's inherent bent for racism, but said that was never a problem at LOVE Park. A Brotherhood of skaters were friendly to a host of people from all walks of life. He referred to the park as a Multi cultural paradox. Dan Pohlig shared that the "Katz Vision" for Philadelphia embraces that and that the policy is 'inclusiveness'. He went on to say that any planning about skate parks or the future of LOVE Park would engage and involve those most effected by the issue early on in the process. Developer Dan Keating pledged to be in it for the long haul as well and offered several design plans and amendments to the current use and some new uses and patterns. Keating has worked with 5 mayoral administrations, over 35 years and 1000 projects in Philadelphia.

A vision was cast at the forum, and albeit the vision basically says let's go back to the way it was...there's a vision! Something many in attendance say is what's missing from the current administration's way of doing things. "This sends a message that Philadelphia is very unfriendly, and closed to young people. that's not a good signal to send," said Dan Pohlig. He encouraged those assembled to vote and make their voices heard in November. For more on the controversy of LOVE Park see www.ushistory.org/lovepark/index.htm

Other links: skatenerd.com to be added to the 'listserv' for updates or other YIP Programs E-mail jobitzkowitz@yahoo.com

Young Involved Philadelphia is a grassroots organization that seeks to increase civic engagement among Philadelphians and facilitate reforms that help create a better Philadelphia. YIP achieves these goals through education about and involvement in civic affairs, exposure to volunteer opportunities, and advocacy around key issues facing the city. Young Involved Philadelphia is Non-Partisan, and does not support any political candidate or any one candidate's viewpoint, rather they provide an opportunity for dialogue. YIP does encourage Voter registration and active participation in the voting and election process.

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