Plan to resurrect NYC’s iconic Brooklyn Banks skate park moves forward

January 27, 2023

The Brooklyn Banks in 2009. Photo credit: Rasmus Zwickson via Flickr

Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project announced plans Thursday to bring the much-loved Brooklyn Banks skate park back to life in a partnership with the nonprofit Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan/Create Gotham Park project. The organizations have joined an ongoing initiative to develop Gotham Park and return the iconic skateboarding mecca to the community by creating a new public park under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. During his State of the City speech on Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams voiced his support for the new public space.

Brooklyn Banks in 2009. Photo credit: zombieite via Wikimedia cc

The Brooklyn Banks was an incontrovertible part of New York City’s urban landscape in the 1980s through the 2000s, when the secluded plaza beneath the Manhattan side of the bridge became a treasured unofficial mecca for skateboarders and BMX riders. The plaza was closed in 2010 to be used for construction on the bridge. With plans to break ground in this spring, the organizations aim to turn the current empty lots into usable all-ages play spaces. The result will be a thoroughly New York City destination designed to encourage community, help local businesses, and provide access to safe outdoor recreation for the 50,000 local residents who live nearby.

In a press release that accompanied his State of the City address on Thursday, Adams expressed a commitment to “unlocking two spaces under the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan for public use.”

Phase one of the project, which includes restoring the Banks skate area and surrounding community basketball courts, promotes the much-needed return of active recreation space in a long-neglected area.

A recent New York Times feature reminisced on the space in its heyday when skaters–from seasoned pros to newcomers–would visit from all over the globe to work on their tricks. The former skate spot sits on city-owned land at the point where the bridge’s arches connect to form vaults where casks of wine were once stored. Skateboarders and BMX bikers used the sloping brick, stairs, benches, and railings for sliding and riding in what the Times calls an “urban obstacle course.”

The Banks would often appear in skateboarding photos and videos, as well as a Nike commercial. Skateboarding legend and lifelong advocate Tony Hawk immortalized the icon status of the Brooklyn Banks when he made it part of his popular video game in 2000.

Several attempts were made to reopen the park since its closure. In 2020, two Pace University students started an online petition to save the Brooklyn Banks. The petition, accompanied by a groundswell of interest from the skateboarding community, caught the attention of the local community board. The New York State non-profit Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan (BBM) aka Gotham Park was founded in 2021 with the goal of bringing a new kind of hyper-urban public park to the Manhattan anchorage of the iconic bridge.

The Skatepark Project (TSP) also signed on. Founded by Tony Hawk, the nonprofit organization, dedicated to increasing access to outdoor recreation and free play via the creation of safe and inclusive community skateparks, has built nearly 700 skate parks throughout the nation, including three in New York City. The Skatepark Project is committed to aiding the buildout of the park both financially and logistically, drawing on two decades of experience working with local officials on community gathering spaces.

“For most of my life, skateboarding has been my home and community. Skateboarding brings people together, creating long-lasting friendships, builds determination and confidence, and all while promoting a healthy lifestyle,” Hawk said in a statement.

“We want to help provide a place for that sense of community and support at the Banks for people of all ages. The local community deserves to have a safe, designated skate space that provides a sense of belonging.”

The collaborative park project, which comes as the city has begun closing waterfront parks along Lower Manhattan’s coastline to implement resiliency protection measures, also has the potential to encourage tourism, increase business growth in the surrounding area and add to New York City’s economic revitalization.

“Brooklyn Banks holds almost a hallowed place in the legacy of not only New York City’s contribution to skater culture but for skaters across the nation and world as well,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in a statement. “It’s imperative that we preserve and continue this legacy, and this new partnership to develop Gotham Park will ensure that generations of skaters can continue to shred this iconic park.”

According to the Times, Adams and city officials are reviewing the plan, and Gov. Kathy Hochul recently offered support for the proposed park in the form of a $4 million award to aid pedestrian connections along Park Row, which would help connect to the park from Chinatown.


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