While they may not agree on what’s better – bikes or boards – the self-proclaimed “family” that calls the Owl’s Head Skate Park home can agree on one thing: taking the park back from the Parks Department. With the agency pulling the plug earlier and earlier each year on the skate park due to what riders have described as a lack of funding, the kids of the skate park, young and old, took it upon themselves to give it a face-lift.
“Before, the walls of the bowl were littered with profanities,” explained Sean Goldberg, a 12-year veteran of the skate park which, he said, is typically closed from late November through March but, this year, was told to lock up as of August 31 and will not reopen until May. “These little kids ride here every day; we can’t have that kind of stuff.”
Already left most days to do routine maintenance like sweeping up leaves from untrimmed trees, the Owl’s Head Crew (OHC) – a group of riders ranging from five to 40 – decided to take it a step further, paying for a complete repainting of both a nine-foot-deep bowl and its neighboring pool with six-foot quarter pipes out of their own pockets, and doing the job themselves.
“People who helped out ranged from ages five to 31,” said Goldberg, adding that, while the “big kids” painted the hard-to-reach spots, the smaller skaters took to the narrow side of the bowl with miniature paintbrushes, leaving their mark on “their turf.”
“They were really enthusiastic about it,” he noted. “They know that this is their park and that they need to take care of it.”
While the spur-of-the moment, 15-day project took over 20 buckets and 35 spray cans worth of paint to complete, Goldberg said it was more than just a paint job.
“It needs to be a safe environment if everyone’s going to ride here,” said the longtime rider, adding that he and the other “locals” have also worked hard to “keep the park drug and violence free,” and “set a good example for the next generation.”
At least four of the riders that helped redo the ramps have been coming to the skate park for more than 10 years.
“A few weeks ago, this was just an idea,” said Goldberg, “but with the help of local riders Denis Nasonov, Dzavid Radoncic and Gabriel Ventura, we were able to restore the home that was passed down to us.”
And they hope to keep passing it down, he said, stressing that while the younger kids may be new to the scene, they’re “easily” there from three to five hours each day, learning the tricks of the trade from their predecessors, both in and out of the bowl.
“We try to do the right thing in front of these kids,” said Goldberg, adding that the face-lift won’t only bring in a better crowd for riding but it will also bring in more sponsorships as well as professionals looking to film. “Professionals didn’t want to ride at this park because it looked bad.”
All of that changed when the paint dried, he said.
With the finishing touches – including a pro-bono art-piece by local artist Ugli_Pygs and two inspirational calligraphic portraits reading “Ride With Strength” and “Skate With Strength” by local artist Sneaks – topped off by Labor Day, the crew celebrated with a full-fledged jam featuring over 50 pro-level skaters and bikers on Monday, September 1, sending a message to the Parks Department (which Goldberg says has never officially informed riders of the alleged budget cuts, said to affect directly the two Parks Department employees assigned to monitor the grounds, first assigned with funding allocated by State Senator Marty Golden in 2007) that they are here to stay, especially in these still sunny, post-summer months.
“It was a great turnout,” said Goldberg of the all-day event, overseen by the 68th Precinct and sponsored by Skate Brooklyn as well as local sportswear shop Pounds Boutique at 69th Street and Colonial Road whose founder Christopher Lee put over $500 in food and music towards the jam. “This is prime time for us [to ride and skate] because it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. The heat kills us during the summer.”
Since its completion, the do-it-yourself project has received positive feedback from parents, sponsors and skaters themselves.
“We all came together and painted,” said fellow rider Ventura. “It just shows what the community can do even without funding.”
More than anything, Goldberg said, the revival of the Owl’s Head Skate Park by the hands of its users shows a special kind of dedication and that the Owl’s Head Crew can – and will – skate on, with or without the help of the Park’s Department.
“Everybody here grew up together,” he said, “and we’re all working together to keep that going for the kids.”
While the Parks Department neither confirmed nor denied the fate of the skate park, a spokesperson did tell this paper that the skate park has closed by Labor Day for the “for the past several years,” a claim Goldberg called “a lie.”
“In this case, as always, safety is our first priority,” said Press Officer Meghan Lalor. “Since the skating elements at this park are some of the highest in the city, it is important for visitors to only skate when a Parks attendant is on site. The park has closed for the past several years on Labor Day, when our seasonal staffing lines for this position end. We would welcome a conversation with the community about this issue, but trespassing is never acceptable.”