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Nyack Has a Skatepark

IMG_2311Nyack, Nov 21 — “This is a dream come true,” said Charlie Samuels at the Nyack Skatepark official opening on Saturday afternoon in Memorial Park.  Samuels, 54, is one of the eight  living members of the Skateboard Wizards, a team that was formed at the park’s tennis courts almost 40 years ago. As he explained what a long journey it’s been to get a skatepark built in Nyack, kids and twenty-somethings continued to kick and push. It was as though they were surfing the perfect wave and they were worried that their smooth ramps would disappear with the tide. And though the concrete wasn’t going anywhere, maybe these young, defiant skaters were right – as winter grows closer, the chances of finding another day this year as perfect for skating as Saturday dwindle.

Samuels and the Wizards had been lobbying to build a skatepark in Nyack since the mid 1970s, but their four decade dream didn’t begin to take form until 2010 when resident Sarah Anderson, on maternity leave with her second child, struck up a conversation with Nyack’s mayor. “She came to me with a baby strapped to her chest and proposed that Nyack might be a good place for a skate park,” said Mayor Jen Laird White, recalling the chance meeting she had with Anderson at the Didier Dumas Patisserie. “People had talked for years [about a skatepark], but nobody has ever come to the village board with a clear idea, a plan, unbelievable energy and tenacity – until Sarah.”

Anderson moved to Nyack from Brooklyn in 2007. Her husband, Tim, skateboards, and she was inspired to action, when friends who would visit would have no place to skate. “I started a petition [‘Nyack Needs a Skatepark’] and we got over 1,000 signatures. I met with Jen and she was open to the idea.  We made a presentation to the village board and filled Village Hall with all kinds of people. In 2012, Nyack said we could have the land as long as we could raise the funds to get the park built.” Anderson says the money for the park came from a variety of sources including several benefits, a grant from NYS Senator David Carlucci and another from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

From Left: Anderson, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, and Mayor White

From Left: Anderson, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, and Mayor White

The park wound up costing approximately $220,000, but thanks to the grants, with the exception of a bit of landscaping work, none of the costs fell on the Nyack taxpayers. “What this really is a product of is one person spreading the word, working with people, getting the community together, and not waiting,” said Carlucci. “It should be a case study in how if you have an idea, how to follow through and get it done.”

The pristine 5,000-square foot skate park, with the Hudson River as a backdrop, looks idyllic. Its circular construction creates a concentric flow, almost rhythmic, where the skaters’ movements look natural and in-sync as an automated train set.

“Everything here is an actual skate park,” said Leo Costa, a lanky 20-year old who grew up in Brazil and began skating eight years ago, soon after moving to the U.S. “A lot of parks feel like they were designed by a guy in a suit and a tie, but this one they did right.”  Nyack’s skatepark was designed by former professional skateboarder Kanten Russell.

Traveling from his home in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Costa made his first visit to Nyack for the ribbon cutting on Saturday. He wound up winning the 2nd Nature Skateboard Shop’s Best Trick competition, nailing an inward heel tail slide 180L.

Costa began riding because it was “an outlet where it was all me.” He says he preferred skating to playing soccer, a sport he played almost nonstop while growing up. The independent spirit of people like Costa was part of what Anderson was banking on when she began rallying for a park. “I think that skateboarding just fits in the Nyack community. We’re like a funky, artistic, diverse community. Not every kid is going to love a team sport, and skateboarding is all about you against yourself. There are a lot of individuals here, and I saw it fitting in well,” she said.

As the sun set over the village, the skateboarders, old and young, black, brown and white, continued to ride. Maybe they were inspired by the words of one of the founding Wizards, Jamaal Bey. “Ride until the wheels fall off,” he said.


Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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