Rangefinder: Brooklyn – “Skate and Destroy.”
Well you know what they say; “It ain’t over til’ the fat lady sings,” and unfortunately, she just sung Bohemian Rhapsody as an opera. Brooklyn Street Skate Spot or “Brooklyn” as everyone has come to know it now lays in a pile of rubbish and rebar.
Throughout the past few days skateboarders in the community sat and watched as one of our favorite places was taken away from us and then demolished. I think I know how Kate Winslet felt in that scene from Titantic. The one where ol’ Leo floats away into the ocean as she watches, helplessly. “Don’t go Jack!” Today, as the first jersey barrier to get worked on at Brooklyn was being ripped out, Chris Slatky asked one of the construction workers if they could hand him a piece that had broken off. “My truck has grinded this so many times,” he said. It was a classic moment where someone coming from an outside perspective, who doesn’t skate or understand skateboarding, was so baffled at a request that seems completely logical to literally every single skateboarder on Earth. Once the workers had left we managed to salvage a few pieces of coping and pool tile as keepsakes. But this brings me to one point I’d like to make; I believe that a huge reason that more wasn’t done to try to protect the skatepark is that, people who do not skate truly cannot understand what a D.I.Y. skate spot means to the skateboarding community. They may try but they won’t really be able to understand it’s significance. It’s easy to take something away if you’ve never had a personal attachment to it.
However, what most people don’t know is that Colin Sharp had been working closely with the city for a long time trying to preserve the park, and I think the woman in charge really was doing everything in her power to help us all out. We’ve got to be thankful for that. It went back and forth between, “Sorry, we have to demo it,” to “Actually, we might only have to do a little damage to the new side…” but when all was said and done, due to liabilities, apparently everything had to go. But, you have to think… what if Brooklyn had been something else?
Imagine if the city was faced with damaging a center for the community, specifically one that helped the youth in the area. Even more specifically, one that they did not have to manage or fund, but nonetheless one that served the community in more ways than one. I’d be willing to bet they would try a whole lot harder to prevent said damage and do what they could to repair said damage afterwards. I’d also be willing to bet that they wouldn’t require a full demolition either. And finally, I’d be willing to bet that something thats going to effect a very large array of people would have included more members of the community on a public level. Brooklyn wasn’t your average run of the mill D.I.Y. skate spot. It was maintained, cleaned, funded, and kept a safe place by not only just those working next door at Unheard Skateboard Distribution, but by just about every skater who came by. We kept Brooklyn a skatepark that welcomed anyone. In fact, every week a nearby school would bring a group of children by in the mornings for them to run around and have fun. And what would we do before they came? Pick up trash and have transients who might have been lurking around move along.
Aside from the children at the school, so many young skateboarders would come to Brooklyn every day because it wasn’t ever as crowded as the other skateparks in Portland. There was never any hostility. They could learn and their own pace and there was always someone there to encourage them to continue and do better. I don’t think that the real “shot-callers” in the city of Portland really understood how great of a service this park was to the community and it’s truly a shame and a disappointment that this service is gone. We had a lot of people on our side, but it just wasn’t enough.
It’s really easy to focus on the anger right now, and though it’s important to voice your frustrations, it’s also important to reflect on all of the good that came from Brooklyn. I can’t even count the amount of friends I have made because of Brooklyn. I made plenty while skating there, but Brooklyn sort of broke the boundaries of any other skatepark and people around the world knew what we were doing here in Portland. On multiple occasions professional skateboarding teams would come through to film and shoot photos. Everyone wanted to see if they could skate the park that was so deceivingly difficult to skate. Most recently the Nike SB team came through for some reason and I saw Eric Koston, easily one of the most talented skateboarders in the world, struggling to figure out the flow of the park. Eventually he got it. Brooklyn almost became a sort of challenge that every skateboarder had to try. People would move to Portland to become a part of the lush skateboarding culture that we have. Despite the many places you can skate here in Portland, Brooklyn just had an allure that would captivate people and often a lot of these transplants would fall in love the first time they dropped in at #bsss. Even if you skated it every single day there was always something else to learn and another piece of coping you hadn’t been able to grind yet. I guess that was one of the best parts about Brooklyn, it was a constant challenge.
I have slammed so many times in the tight pocket by the stairs, I even hit my head on the stairs to the right of the volcano and even though all of that was painful; I’d subject myself to it a million times more given the chance. Also, interestingly enough, I met a lot of people who never actually went to skateparks, or who were generally “street skaters” that found themselves at Brooklyn a lot, which is actually pretty impressive if you think about it. Billy Davis is one guy who comes to mind. He is an absolutely amazing street skater but once he moved out here from Boston the only place he would skate was Brooklyn. Sure enough, he was skating it better than most people in no-time. Brooklyn, however, really wasn’t ever a spot where it mattered if you were good or not. Everyone skated it in a different way. Everyone found the lines they liked the best. Everyone had tricks they could always do but for every one they had 3 more tricks they would never be able to do. Looking back there are so many tricks that I wish I could do one more time.
I don’t know who I would crown as the king of Brooklyn given the opportunity. It is however, in my opinion, a solid toss up between, Chris Slatky, Kenny Coombs, Johnny Turgesen, and Jesse McDowell. Jesse, for those who don’t know, did a very large portion of the work at Brooklyn. It is, in a sense, his concrete child. I remember last winter when the new part was getting built, the hard-edge quarter pipe wall was formed up and waiting for concrete when a ton of rain hit. The entire form basically collapsed in on itself and even though people were offering to help, Jesse pretty much manhandled everything and got it all back in place by himself. Of course everyone came together to get the rest of it built but it was at that point where I thought to myself, “man… Jesse is a gnarly dude.” I guess thats why they call him the trowel. It’s by-in-large due to Jesse’s ability and determination that we had such a fun place to skate for so long. And you have to admit, he got pretty creative with everything there… Brooklyn was really unlike any other skatepark around.
Kenny Coombs was just a maelstrom of skateboarding at Brooklyn as well. He could grind whatever he wanted, revert every which way out of everything, and he never fell off his board; all while skating incredibly fast. If I a going to miss watching anyone skate at Brooklyn, Kenny takes the cake. To me, the sad part about Brooklyn being gone is that… we’re going to lose a lot of the interaction we had with one another. People no longer have a reason to come down to 16th and Brooklyn. We no longer have that perfect warm-up spot to meet up at for a day of skating. And we’re left with so many unanswered questions like… where is the Honey Badger going to skate now? Can Connor Beals do a 25 minute run? And is Allen now homeless-less?
In the end, I guess we knew that this was coming. I think we all just had hopes that the city would acknowledge how much of a positive impact Brooklyn was in the community and do their best to preserve what so many people had helped build. Like I said before, we had a lot of people working for the city on our side, but that isn’t always enough to sway the minds of those who are accountable for expenses and who have to put every plan into action. Although skateboarders have a pretty good working reputation with the City of Portland, our needs and wants really do not compare with those of everyone who will soon benefit from the new railway that is to be built; though, I may not ride it out of SPITE! (kidding). I want to be positive and try to look forward to what the next project will be but after seeing what happened with Brooklyn it’s honestly kind of hard to want to put forth any effort when we’ve seen that it can all be taken down in a matter of minutes. The fact of the matter is, we actually just have to and its in the nature of skateboarders to do so. Build. Destroy. Rebuild. Even though we followed all the rules with Brooklyn (for the most part), and it was destroyed, the best thing we can do is try again.
There is no way to list off everyone who helped with Brooklyn, but I want to thank every single one of you. There are two people however that deserve a special thanks, Colin Sharp and Jesse McDowell. All of the Portland skateboarding community owes them a thanks. It’s going to be tough… and we’re going to have to raise a lot of money, but the next goal is to fund and build the Powell Street Skatepark off of 26th and Powell. The city has already approved and allotted the space for it. For more info on The Powell Street Skatepark and how to donate / fund “Like” the page on Facebook or visit the Portland Skatepark Alliance’s Website. K.C. Cote had a great idea, we should all get back together every year on November 14th to celebrate #bsss… in doing so maybe we can raise money each time to support whatever it is that we are working on at the time. Below you will find a bunch of pictures of Brooklyn and all the good times we had! I’m sure that many more will be surfacing in the near future!
Photos from the final days at Brooklyn
Here is a look at some of the good times had at Brooklyn
With the exception of the photo below these are all ones I have managed to take over the past few years.
We had a good run guys…