Op-ed | Why I support the Brooklyn Skate Garden and letting our kids play

girl on skateboard in skate park skatepark project
In partnership with New York City, Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project will build two new skate parks in Brooklyn, including the Brooklyn Skate Garden.
File photo courtesy of the Skatepark Project

New York City’s outdoor spaces are a big part of why people like my family and I love to live here.

With our too-small apartments and homes, these vital places are where our kids play, where we meet other families, where our communities come together. And the best part about them is that they’re for all of us. Rich and poor, Black and white, longtime New Yorkers and immigrant communities – these spaces are open to all of us, and we all cherish them.

Right now, the city has the opportunity to make our public spaces even more inclusive by building a transformative Brooklyn Skate Garden in Mount Prospect Park. On behalf of my family of skateboarders, and the 307,000 action sports participants in New York City, I can’t wait to see it built.

My wife and I have been residents of Brooklyn’s District 35 for 12 years and are the proud parents of two teenage sons who, like me, are passionate skateboarders. Throughout my years of skating and watching my sons grow up on their skateboards, I’ve seen the capacity the sport has to build confidence and community. Through skateboarding, my children have made new friends, encountered a diverse group of people, and connected with folks of every age. We have always found the skateboarding community to be inclusive, open, and welcoming.

Skateboarding, despite being inclusive and welcoming, often sees skateboarders pushed to the margins of our city, forced to skate in gritty, remote locations; under highways, in industrial zones, or along dangerous streetscapes. Our closest local park is located underneath the Manhattan Bridge, and is continually littered with debris from the roadway above. Just beyond, on the other side of the bridge, is another skate option, one that is constantly overcrowded. These locations only further incorrect associations that some people have regarding skateboarding.

My sons and I long for a space where we can gather as a family to practice our sport in a safe, central, beautiful location. As a father and an advocate, it is frustrating to see the access to beautiful outdoor facilities for kids involved in sports like baseball or tennis, while my kids are expected to engage in their passion under bridges and in parking lots.

The Brooklyn Skate Garden is an opportunity to provide skaters with a safe and welcoming place to practice their sport all while nurturing an already-beloved park.

I envision the Brooklyn Skate Garden as a place where skateboarding and other park activities live in harmony, a place where my wife, our childrens’ grandparents, and our friends can come to watch us skate while enjoying all that the park has to offer. I am excited to be part of the public engagement process and have input into the kind of skate garden that will best serve the community, and seamlessly integrate the skate garden into a small section of Mount Prospect Park for everyone to utilize.

Community members like me have been advocating for the Brooklyn Skate Garden and supporting the process from the beginning. At the heart of this project is a belief I hold dear: Parks belong to all of us, walkers, joggers, dog owners, soccer players, readers and skateboarders.

I know my neighbors share my goals: an inclusive Brooklyn that offers opportunities to connect, learn, build community and grow together. I believe that we can, together, create a skate garden that honors our shared Brooklyn culture and our history — and sets us on a bright, exciting course for our future. 

I can say without hesitation that I would not be the same person I am today without the many positive life lessons skateboarding has taught me. Skateboarding is an incredible outlet. It’s an activity that teaches people how to believe in themselves and develop a sense of resilience rarely found elsewhere. I carry these lessons with me every day while navigating the challenges of everyday life. I am grateful for this and feel proud to be able to share skateboarding with my two kids who are learning many of these same lessons through our shared love of this unique sport.

I cannot wait to share this love with my community and our greater borough at the Brooklyn Skate Garden.

Emrys Berkower is a father, advocate and resident of Brooklyn’s Council District 35, home to the proposed Brooklyn Skate Garden.