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Battle Lines Drawn Over Mount Prospect Park's Proposed Skatepark

Brooklyn skaters love the plan, but many residents are against it.

Local skaters and concerned residents clashed in Crown Heights last week at a community engagement meeting for the proposed Brooklyn Skate Garden in Mount Prospect Park

If built, the 40,000-square-foot skatepark would be one of the largest on the east coast. Many in the Brooklyn skating community loves the plan, but some local residents are concerned about the transformation of their well-worn park and frustrated about a lack of public input thus far.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the $11 million plan in January, as a part of an overall $24 million allocated to develop four skateparks in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The fast-tracked project is the product of a public-private partnership between the city and the Skatepark Project, a nonprofit founded by professional skateboarder Tony Hawk.

Hundreds of residents lined up along the Eastern Parkway to attend the meeting. Photo: Emily Davis for BK Reader.

A line trailed down the Eastern Parkway before the public meeting last Monday, with residents from across Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Crown Heights. Organizers of the recently-formed Friends of Mount Prospect Park handed out flyers detailing their concerns, with a sign printed on the back: “Don't Pave Our Park.”

The skating community showed out in large numbers, with skateboards in tow and signs reading, “Brooklyn Skate Garden For All," and "Skaters Need Safe Places to Skate." 

Even though Council Member Crystal Hudson began the evening by asking the crowd for calm and respect, the room erupted into cheers, boos and shouts at the first mention of the skatepark.

The meeting, which included statements of support from City Comptroller Brad Lander and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, marked the earliest stage of community involvement. 

“We wanted to have this meeting today because we know that after the mayor's announcement at the 'State of the City,' a lot of people have been spreading misinformation about what this is going to be,” Hudson said.

The idea for the skate garden began with an online petition in 2019 and a successful campaign by the Pablo Ramirez Foundation to secure participatory budget funding in 2021 for the idea. 

“Mount Prospect Park was selected because it's in central Brooklyn, it's easy to get to by public transportation, the size and location makes it where we can add an amenity,” said Martin Maher, the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner. He said the skatepark can be built, "without displacing all the many beautiful activities that happen there now.”

According to the presentation, amenities like additional public seating will be added and no trees will be harmed or removed. The plan boasts a professionally designed green space that intertwines with the skatepark. 

Representatives from the Skatepark Project introduced their mission and presented conceptual designs of the skate garden, advocating for the sport’s many benefits against the crowd’s shouts.

“It builds creativity and perseverance and the community. And it's free,” said Benjamin Anderson Bashein, chief executive officer of the Skatepark Project.

The crowded auditorium at St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf. Photo by Emily Davis.

During a contentious Q&A session following the presentations, some residents expressed their anger over the lack of prior communication about the plans, their fears for the park’s green space, and their distrust of the current design.

“The location feels like it was forced down the throat of the community, and it feels like it's cannibalizing existing green space,” Jessica Kaufman told BK Reader.

According to the current proposed design, less than 12% of the park will be impacted by the skate garden, although groups like Friends of Mount Prospect Park distrust the estimate. 

“It's not going to reduce the number of trees in the park, it's not going to reduce what people are able to do in the park,” Chris Clark, a spokesperson for the city Parks Department, told BK Reader. “What it's going to do is enhance the opportunities that are available for people there.”

Many others spoke in favor, including longtime skater Cody Morey.

“I don't understand how there's so much animosity to money coming in that is doing something to better our community,” Morey said.

According to Maher, the project may be completed in about a year and half, given the project’s public-private backing. The current project has no official timeline, however, and the formal engagement process conducted by the parks department is yet to begin. 

Hudson denied assertions that officials were being dishonest about the scope of the project and impact on the park.

“It may not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth,” Hudson said.