Skaters ramp up W’burg parking lot

Skaters ramp up W’burg parking lot
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Guerrilla skaters built a 15-foot-long concrete ramp across three Williamsburg parking spots last week in the latest do-it-yourself addition to a growing unsanctioned skatepark beneath the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.

Dozens of skateboarders practiced grinds, slides, flip tricks, and wallrides on the banked surface at a party on Friday afternoon — and they had little fear the city would rip out the most ambitious step so far in their ongoing skatepark project.

“Whoever built it should be given a f!@#$%! medal,” said Danny Mandell, a skater who lives nearby and was filming the party. “It’s very cool that it’s here. And the cops don’t really bother us.”

However the installation of the makeshift skate structure was delayed several days after planners spotted a squad car parked in the lot near Lorimer Street earlier this month.

“The first thing we [saw was] a cop car parked right at the bank guarding it. Sketchy,” the skate company Polar — which helped organize the party — wrote on its Instagram page. “Sorry boys, we tried our very best to make it happen.”

But after that setback, the skaters got to work constructing a new fixture with two banked slopes connected by a metal-edged ledge — the largest skate-able object in a parking lot where wood-pushers have long used dollops of concrete to turn support beams into ramps.

Mandell said there’s a chance that the scale of the new construction might attract some unwanted attention from the city, though that didn’t stop a group dubbed I Am Your Villain from throwing the ramp’s launch party with Converse, Thrasher Magazine, and Wythe Avenue’s KCDC skateshop.

Skaters say the ramp isn’t a burden for neighborhood drivers, claiming that even though it spans three parking spaces it doesn’t completely obstruct any of them.

“You can’t let fear rule you,” said Mandell. “Anyway, it’s totally out of the way.”

The Department of Transportation, which oversees the parking lot, says it has not received any complaints about the ramp.

So far, skaters and drivers seem to be doing a fine job sharing the space. In the midst of the party, a middle-aged man in a silver Mercedes E350 cautiously drove toward a group of skaters in the center of the parking lot. He flashed his lights and they stopped, moved out of his way, and waved as he drove by — then got back to their tricks.

The skate structure seems like a hit for now, but Jean-Francois Taillon — a member of a Montreal-based crew that frequently comes down to Brooklyn to help lay concrete — says DIY skate spots in the United States tend to have short life spans compared to those built elsewhere in the world.

“We need to make the most of it and enjoy it before they take it down,” said Taillon.