Jason "Joshua" Wiggins, a Jersey City resident and co-owner (with his wife Gia) of the Nine Lives Skate Shop on Newark Avenue, says a permanent skate park would keep skateboarders from practicing their moves on the steps of public buildings such as the U.S. Post Office on Montgomery Street.
"We are getting sick of them kicking us out of the post office or other places where we skate," Wiggins said last week. "There needs to be a place where we can practice, especially for young kids who are learning for the first time."
The city has floated the idea for years, with a proposed location on land under the New Jersey Turnpike near Ferris High School in downtown Jersey City.
There are more than 1,000 active skate parks in the United States, full of ramps and curving "half pipes" that allow skaters to practice their kickflips and grinds.
City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said that the city operated a skate park at the Pershing Field Ice Rink on Summit Avenue during the spring and summer months until this year. She said the city had hired a firm from Connecticut to lay out a skateboarding course, and a skateboarder was hired to oversee the park and teach the sport. But she said attendance dwindled, likely because of the safety rules.
"As the skate park was located in a city building, the city was required to staff it," she said. "Signage was also put in place requiring skateboarders to wear helmets, knee pads and elbow pads. The staff of the skate park strictly enforced these rules. When the park first opened, there would be 30 to 40 attendees on a given day. That quickly dwindled ... the skateboarders instead were skating on the railings in the park outside of the ice rink."A spot to call their own
Not long ago, Wiggins and other skateboarders were forced by NJ Transit officials to dismantle a "secret spot" they had built with the various ramps, rails and obstacles on land near light rail tracks by the Jersey City-Hoboken border.
He said the makeshift park had attracted professional skateboarders from the metropolitan area.
Wiggins complained that back in January, he and skater friends attended a council meeting to ask for a skate park, but nothing had been done.
"We told them we wanted a skate park, and they told us they would find a spot for us," Wiggins said. "But it has been almost a year and we have not heard from them."
Wiggins said if the city has delayed because of location, they can transform the roller hockey rink located at the Roberto Clemente Sports Complex on Ninth Street in downtown Jersey City into a skate park. He said he would offer to help design the park, and recommends that the details are made of concrete so that it will last longer. Using the hockey rink
The city does have some plans - although not as "concrete" as Wiggins might like - to install such a park. In the city's Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, a long-range development plan that has still not been approved by the City Council, there is a recommendation to convert another area within that sports complex into a skate park.
Wiggins said he uses the roller hockey rink often to practice and to teach skateboarding to others, like his 6-year old son. He also meets with other skateboarders who also go there to practice every day except for Tuesday and Thursday evenings, when it is used by an amateur roller hockey team.
At the rink last Tuesday afternoon, 18-year-old Bilale Sakt, 18-year-old Vadim Filatov, and 19-year-old Dave Feldman was demonstrating their moves to each other.
Feldman said he would welcome a new park, but with some hesitation.
"Once they give you a place to skate, they will expect you to stay there, which is not how skateboarding works," Feldman said.
Selina Vargas was also at the rink with her 6-year-old son Jayden Bell, who's learning how to skate.
"This may not be a skate park, but at least they can have some place where they can learn, where they can be part of the culture," she said. "And the kids here are nice and helpful." Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org