Date: July 9, 2003
Byline: Mitch Deighan
Notes from the forum, "The Future of LOVE Park"
Young Involved Philadelphia forum panel discussion at the Seiss Community Center. The invited panel:
- Edmund Bacon, former Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission
- Daniel J. Keating, III, Chairman and CEO, Keating Group
- Scott Kip, Director, Skateboard Advocacy Network
- Mark Nevins, Campaign to Re-elect Mayor John Street (absent)
- Dan Pohlig, Sam Katz for Mayor 2003
At the start of the meeting, the packed house was advised of the absence of Mayor John Street's representative. No reason was given.
Ed Bacon conceived Love Park (formally known as JFK Plaza) as his undergraduate thesis at Cornell University in 1932. Then he went to Mayor Dilworth with the idea (c. 1956). The Mayor's Commissioner of Streets advised, "Mr. Mayor, if you build that thing, all center city traffic will come to a standstill." "...so, the Mayor built it!" Ed is amazed that this controversy about skateboarders using the park even exists, and equally amazed at the "leadership."
Ed joked: "What we should do is declare the park an International Zone" so that no U.S. government can make any policy to limit skating in LOVE Park. Heartfelt calls for reform are currently being sent from all over the globe ... as posted on the website.
Scott Kip: (he moved here in '95 to skateboard and attend college, with the emphasis on the Philly skateboarding scene) ... "Most skateboarders would say, 'Please, just leave us alone.'"
Dan Keating wrote Mayor Street before the changes were made to the park, as Keating was developing the Phoenix luxury apartment building across the street from LOVE Park. He wrote in support of the skateboarding because it brought life to the park. His office looks right onto the park. He suggested demolishing the vacant "round house" (former Visitors'Center), and to use that area as a replacement skateboard park, so that residents can enjoy the area around the fountain. He advocated the installation of rest rooms and bike racks.
Dan Pohlig: "Sam Katz is in favor of re-opening the park to skateboarding." He said there seems to be potential financial support in the corporate world if there is a signal from government. "Sam Katz wants to return the park to the magical international status it formerly enjoyed...Skateboarders brought vibrant life to Love Park...There are plenty of places to eat lunch, but only one international symbol of this nature, here in Philly."
Scott Kip: "Major elements combine to make Love Park extremely special for skateboarding."
Ed Bacon: "I caution you...there's a grave danger in over-compromising on this issue."
Daniel Keating: "The more life in a park, the better park it is...you don't have to be a genius to know that." He said that the fountain is turned off much of the time and creates an empty, dead space at the park's center.
Ed Bacon: "Don't destroy my fountain!"
Dan Pohlig: "The administration's actions say, 'This city is closed to the younger generation.' Why do we have to just be known for cheesesteaks?"
Ed Bacon: Park design must be for the long run.
Open discussion followed... Elizabeth Kerr, mother of deceased skateboarder Patrick Kerr: "It was much safer for the skateboarders, before." Her son, Patrick, was killed by a truck as he skateboarded, after being kicked out of Love Park, so she created the Patrick Kerr Foundation, which awards scholarships to skateboarders. (After the meeting, Ms. Kerr explained: Ed Rendell and Ed Bacon both sit on the Foundation's Board of Directors, and Rendell made the first donation. During Rendell's administration, his son Jesse skateboarded at Love Park, and police were not directed to ban anyone.)
Joshua Nims, J.D., Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund: Liability will probably be covered by existing city policies. There are fewer injuries for skateboarding than volleyball. There are NO skateboarding lawsuits known to have been filed in Philadelphia.
Dan Keating: "In recent years, Philly has lost more people than any other county in America." "We need to reverse this trend, not intensify it."
Michael Blackie, editor, The Logan Times Independent: "There's NO liability issue, here. There's also no vision from leadership."
Mitch Deighan: "As a taxpayer, I'm offended that Mayor Street's representative didn't show, tonite. We are entitled to accountability...Stealing people's dreams is a far more serious crime than anything the skateboarders have been accused of."
Dan Pohlig: "If I'd been Ed (Bacon), I would've sued the city on this issue." Dan has been responding to emails about LOVE Park sent to the Katz campaign.
We were asked for a show of hands, in support or opposition to Mayor Street's policy. Only one person in attendance was in support of maintaining the skating ban in Love Park. She feels strongly about "open spaces." "I've always used Love Park as a thoroughfare. The park used to be packed with chess players, now they're all gone."
One skateboarder observed: "For the city to stomp out the flame of international unity, as expressed by the former users of Love Park 'it's racism. The city is furthering division by doing this.'"
Question: "What can we do NOW to correct this situation?"
Answer, from Dan Pohlig: VOTE on November 4th.
Ricky Oyola, professional skateboarder: "Skateboarders created something, and then they kicked us out...Skateboarders gave life to that park."
Dan Keating: "It's been my pleasure to work with five different mayors...If you want good things to happen, this is the type of forum that helps...If you want to place your bet: VOTE!"
Dan Pohlig: "The vision the Katz campaign has is that with dialogue we can make this a better city."
Ed Bacon: "We're trying to fix something that already worked so well...The skateboarders want IN, so for God's sake, LET THEM IN!"
Andrew Hohns, YIP: "I think we're going to need to create a balanced solution, which allows skateboarding back in."
These notes are actual quotes or paraphrases, as recorded by Mitch Deighan, civic activist from Northern Liberties. firstname.lastname@example.org