A Skate Park Closes, A Dispute Ensues

Open Road Park closedChelsia Rose Marcius

East Side Community High School will hold a public meeting at 4 p.m. tomorrow to discuss increased supervision at Open Road skate park on Twelfth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A — the only official East Village public park where ramps, benches and ledges welcomed daily wear and tear before it was shut down by the Department of Education last week. The reasons cited for closure were drinking, smoking, fighting, littering and vandalism.

It came as a blow to skateboarders like 14-year-old Val Perre, who makes daily trips to the park from his home at 24th Street and Lexington Avenue, and sold soda, chips and other confections at the Open Road canteen last summer.

“I don’t think everyone should’ve gotten a punishment, and I doubt there will be more smoking,” Mr. Perre said.

Open Road founder and executive director Paula Hewitt Amram said she’s already recruiting volunteers and revamping fundraising efforts to increase park security during afterschool hours.

Still, she expects there to be some pushback tomorrow from residents on 11th and 12th Streets, who have made several efforts since 2009 to get Open Road — and it’s noise — off their block.

Eric Johnson in Tompkins Square ParkChelsia Rose MarciusEric Johnson.

Charles Hardwick, 43, lives across the street from the park, but cannot understand his neighbors’ complaints.

“Unless you’re an old fogie, the sound isn’t loud at all,” he said. “There might have been some degree of vandalism, but it would be worse if these kids were out on the streets.”

Some parents of children who attend the Ross Global Academy Charter School seem concerned about the “illegal behaviors” that East Side principal Mark Federman noted in a letter posted on the gates of Open Road, and many said that they appreciated the school’s attempt to intervene. But they don’t necessarily want the park closed for good.

“I’m impressed they’re making this decision, but it’s a shame,” said Regina Costa, 48, East Village resident and mother of Ross Global student Gustavo Valdes, 12. “It is a good environment for the kids to skateboard. It’s upsetting because the 18 year olds who use the park can go everywhere — but 12 year olds have fewer options. This was a good way to keep them in the community.”

Because Open Road is a public park, Mrs. Amram is confident it will reopen after the issue of increased security is sorted out.

Until then, skateboarder Eric Johnson, 26, of the East Village, will have to settle for whatever space he can find in the cramped courts of Tompkins Square Park.

“We have to share this area with the softball players and basketball players,” he said. “Most of the illegal activity” — at Open Road — “is from other people passing through. Trying to pin it on skateboarders and pushing us out of that space is ridiculous.”