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Students spearheading effort to get New York City to reopen at least part of popular Brooklyn Banks skatepark

Effort underway to get NYC to reopen part of Brooklyn Banks skatepark
Effort underway to get NYC to reopen part of Brooklyn Banks skatepark 03:02

NEW YORK -- A popular park widely known for skateboarding on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge has been closed for years while undergoing essential repairs. But the community has been fighting to get at least part of it reopened, arguing there's a way the city can do both.

The pleas were recently shared with CBS2'as Jenna DeAngelis.

There's a freedom Jonathan Becker feels when there's a skateboard under his feet.

"Skateboarding means the world to me. I've been skateboarding for like 10 years now," the downtown Brooklyn resident said.

And the Lower East Side Coleman Skatepark has become a safe haven.

"I found a community within my own community that I wasn't even aware of," Becker said.

But there's a space beneath the Brooklyn Bridge known as the Brooklyn Banks that the former Pace University student has been eyeing.

"My dorm room actually looked out right above the Brooklyn Banks and me being a skateboarder, I was naturally just like looking at it every single day," Becker said.

At the time, it was closed. It has been since 2010 for bridge repairs. Two years ago, Becker helped create a petition called "Save The Brooklyn Banks."

"Brooklyn Banks was even more than a very major skateboard area. For example, right here there was basketball courts and loads of kids came here," said Paul Goldstein, a member of Community Board 1.

Community Board 1 has been advocating for its reopening for years.

"In 2020, we wrote a resolution asking city DOT to reopen the space and I'm very sad to say that the city and DOT has been very unresponsive,' Goldstein said.

CBS2 reached out to the DOT, which would only provide a statement noting the area is closed for essential bridge repairs, saying, "The area informally known as the 'Brooklyn Banks' has been closed to facilitate essential repairs to the Brooklyn Bridge. DOT is aware of community requests to open and upgrade areas around and under the bridge, and is currently exploring concepts that may be possible once construction ends in 2024."

"What has the city and the DOT told the community board?" DeAngelis asked Chair Tammy Meltzer.

"That they need storage space for their vehicles and some of the equipment," Meltzer replied.

She said she feels the DOT can make some space available now, arguing the area lacks public park access and the location is key.

"It connects FiDi, it connects the civic center, it connects Chinatown," Meltzer said.

Right next to the park is a school with students eager to use the space.

"After I get lunch I can come here and just like chill with some friends," 10th grader Mehdi Rahmani said.

"Having an outdoor space, it would be very beneficial for their mental and physical well being," 12th grader Marcela Rivera said.

"It's also about the community members," 11th grader Phebe Kwarteng added.

The students at Urban Assembly Maker Academy have done their own advocacy, presenting to the community board and reaching out to local leaders.

"Working with the student leadership team has been a great experience that really enabled me and the rest of the student body to have a voice in this process," 11th grader Liam Rice said.

"We want to create the problem solvers that will make this world a better place and you're currently seeing them in action," added the school's principal, Chad Frade.

All day, the fight to restore the Brooklyn Banks is far from over.

"There's nowhere else like it," Becker said.

DeAngelis was told the closed areas are either active work zones or contractually obligated staging areas which will stay closed until work is completed in 2024. For a link to the petition, please click here.

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