Tenants Say Skateboarders Have Ruined Esplanade Rec Area

Photos by Trever Holland, TUFF-LES.

Photos by Trever Holland, TUFF-LES.

As we reported last week, there’s mounting frustration that a new recreational area at Pier 35 is taking so long to complete.  At one point, a new eco-park along the East River near Rutgers Street was supposed to open in 2014. At a Community Board 3 meeting last week, an official with the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC), announced the opening was now being pushed back to early 2017. We’ll have more details about the latest delays later today. Meanwhile, local residents have another concern about a portion of the East River Esplanade that was opened last spring.

The stretch of the waterfront just to the south of Pier 35 includes basketball courts, a bocce court, workout equipment, benches and plantings. But the residents said the area has been taken over by skateboarders and bicyclists who are not only “menacing” but have also destroyed much of the equipment. They’ve documented the damage in photos like the ones you see posted below.

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Elaine Hoffman, a tenant leader at Two Bridges Tower, said, the skateboarders “show no consideration whatsoever” for the families, seniors and young children in the neighborhood. It’s gotten so bad, she said, that residents have stopped going to exercise in the area. Aaron Gonzalez, another tenant leader said the behavior of the skateboarders is “brash and menacing.” Coleman Oval Skate Park is located a short distance from the esplanade, under the Manhattan Bridge. But tenants said the young men descending on the Pier 35 area prefer to freestyle on the flat surfaces bordering the workout park. Kerri Culhane of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council said, “It’s sad to see the damage that has been done,” noting that the bocce courts in particular are not being used for their intended purpose.

Teresa Flores, the district manager for the NYC Parks Department, said “no skateboarding” signs and metal skateboard stoppers have been removed. “They are very industrious,” she added. Captain Glenn Rowan of the department’s enforcement patrol division was also on hand for the meeting. There are only three officers for the waterfront in Lower Manhattan. Rowan promised to step up enforcement. “Summonses have been issued and will continue to be issued,” he said. It’s a scourge throughout the city and we take it very seriously.”

Lusheena Warner, an assistant vice president with the EDC, said, “We want people to feel safe.” The city officials told members of CB3’s parks committee that they hoped officers from the 7th Precinct would help with enforcement.

Most of the residents who testified are members of TUFF-LES, a coalition of tenant organizations along the East River. They recently formed an offshoot called “Friends of Pier 35.”