A section of NYC skateboarding ‘mecca’ Brooklyn Banks reopens in Chinatown

May 16, 2023

Public space under the Brooklyn Bridge. Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Images courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Parts of a long-neglected public space under the Brooklyn Bridge once known as the “mecca” of New York City skateboarding will reopen this month. On Wednesday, May 24, “The Arches,” a one-acre public space with basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard, and seating under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, will officially open after being shuttered for over a decade, Mayor Eric Adams announced last week. The new park sits next to Brooklyn Banks, a haven for skateboarders and BMX riders starting in the 1980s before closing in 2010.

The new park’s opening coincides with the 140th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge and the completion of the city’s renovation of the iconic overpass.

A majority of the space underneath the bridge’s vehicle onramps has been closed to the public since 2010 when DOT began work on the $800 million project. The bridge’s rehabilitation included a comprehensive cleaning of its granite stones for the first time since its construction and the replacement of mortar between stones.

The reactivation of the Arches is part of Adams’ “Working People’s Agenda,” announced during his 2023 State of the City address, which included an investment of $375 million into the creation of new public spaces across all five boroughs to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

The revitalization also follows a recommendation set forth in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s “Making New York Work for Everyone” action plan, which proposed a series of public realm improvements in all five boroughs, including underneath and around the Brooklyn Bridge.

“One hundred forty years ago, we opened the Brooklyn Bridge and connected two islands. This is a landmark 1883 moment for our communities, our public spaces, and our city’s recovery,” Adams said.

“These kinds of public spaces are a critical component of our administration’s strategy for an equitable, inclusive, and prosperous economic recovery for New York City. And we are delivering on that strategy with a $375 million investment and now two new spaces for the Chinatown residents, the skateboarding community, and all New Yorkers to enjoy.”

The Arches is just one section of the larger Brooklyn Banks, an area that became an integral part of the city’s skateboarding and BMX community from the 1980s through the 2000s, gradually becoming a favorite spot to ride due to its sloping brick, stairs, benches, and railings for sliding, according to the New York Times.

The non-profit organization Gotham Park envisions a sprawling nine-acre public park for the area, with six outdoor sections from Park Row to South Street. The Adams administration stated that it would host discussions starting this spring to reevaluate other spaces around the Arches that could receive potential upgrades, according to the Tribeca Citizen.

Tony Hawk’s organization The Skatepark Project partnered with Gotham Park in an effort to restore the Brooklyn Banks fully.

“Skating is my passion, and it’s allowed me to stay active throughout my life. Everyone deserves that opportunity, no matter who they are or where they live,” Hawk said in a statement.

“The Brooklyn Banks and the Arches will bring people of all backgrounds together, building community through creativity, action sports, and outdoor play. I’m honored to support this effort that will provide safe outdoor recreation for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers living nearby.”

In 2020, two students at Pace University started a petition to save the Brooklyn Banks, which captured the local community board’s attention. Plans to revive the iconic park moved forward in January when Adams expressed support for the new public spaces under the Brooklyn Bridge in his State of the City address.

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