Future of makeshift Schenectady skate park comes into question

DI Rivera of Schenectady skateboards on abandoned tennis courts in the Schenectady Stockade on Tuesday.

DI Rivera of Schenectady skateboards on abandoned tennis courts in the Schenectady Stockade on Tuesday.

SCHENECTADY — The future of a makeshift skateboard park occupying the old tennis courts in Riverside Park is unclear after the city installed a pair of “no trespassing” signs days after a group began building a permanent structure out of concrete cinder blocks at the site last week. 

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he ordered the signs installed and instructed the individuals behind the cinder-block wall to cease construction because of potential liability issues for the city.

“They can’t just come in and do random structures like that,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a big liability on behalf of the city.”

But McCarthy said he’s hoping to work with the group to build a permanent skateboard facility somewhere in the city moving forward, though he did not provide any additional details on a potential location or timeline for the project.

“We want people to take advantage of opportunities within the park, but I can’t have that activity, which they started and I believed stopped,” he said. “We posted it in the short term and can hopefully move ahead in a more positive manner now.”

A small group of skateboarders began using the vacant tennis courts, nestled just off Ingersoll Avenue in the Stockade neighborhood, about two years ago, plucking weeds and repairing cracks before bringing in makeshift ramps and rails for grinding.

The group’s efforts gained the support of the local neighbors, who, for the most part, were happy to see the once dilapidated courts finally maintained and put to good use, according to Suzanne Unger, president of the Stockade Association.

“These skateboard guys started showing up and they pulled the weeds and started cleaning up that area way better than the city had ever done, and set up their little informal skate park,” she said. “The neighborhood has been very supportive for the most part. People like seeing activity down there.”

But the future of the makeshift skate park is unclear.

Six individuals were spotted skating at the courts on Tuesday afternoon, including Dan Folger, a Schenectady resident who helps maintain the repurposed courts.

Folger, who believes the signs were installed to discourage future construction, said the situation is “fluid,” adding that he met with McCarthy last week to discuss the future of the skating facility.

He said the city is still determining how best to use the courts, which sit in the city’s flood plain, and that an idea to create a permanent skate park under the I-890 bridge was floated, though details remain sparse.

“That’s also a whole other issue,” Folger said. “I don’t even know what the condition of that place is. I don’t even know if there’s a ground yet … or to what degree it would need to be redeveloped.”

Folger said a group of skaters are also looking into forming a limited liability company in conjunction with the owner of Town & Country Skateboards, a Scotia skate shop, as a way to assume liability from the city so they can still skate at the courts.

Jacob Koehler, the owner of Town & Country Skateboards, said he’s still figuring out all the details, but is willing to form the LLC and cover the necessary insurance costs in order to maintain the Riverside Park skating facility, which he said is in the perfect location and holds a special place in the hearts of all those who use it.

He’s hoping to further discuss details with the city in the coming days.

“We would love to take responsibility for the liability there and to continue to build and maintain space for skating,” Koehler said.

Efforts to bring a permanent skateboard park to Schenectady are nothing new.

A petition circulating online last year seeking to convert the vacant tennis stadium in Central Park into a skate park has garnered more than 2,300 signatures.

But the city is planning to construct a new pool at the site, replacing the current Central Park swimming facility, which does not adhere to state Department of Health guidelines and is frequently a target for goose droppings.

The pool, which will be paid for using $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, is still in development, but the hope is to break ground later this year and finish construction by next year. The current swimming pool is expected to open at the end of June or in early July, McCarthy said.

He added that the city is currently in the process of assessing all of its parks and looking at adding more amenities such as pickleball courts.

“We’re looking at things at all the parks throughout the city,” McCarthy said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: -News-, Schenectady, Schenectady County

One Comment

Robert Davis

I hope these kids interest in a skating park will be supported by the city.  That space has laid fallow for so long.  It is good to see the young people using it.

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