When plans for the Valley Stream Skate Park were announced in 2011, both the skateboarding community and village officials were happy with the new endeavor. Now, more than a year later, neither group is pleased with the current setup, and there are plans to move the park from the hockey rink in front of the Long Island Rail Road station to Hendrickson Park.
The equipment used at the skate park is portable, and will be moved to the concrete area in between the miniature golf course and the pool at Hendrickson Park — though village officials don’t yet know when.
“Even though the concrete surface would be a little rougher than the hockey rink, it’s still better to have our own definitive space,” said Anthony Savillo, who graduated from South High School in June.
Savillo, like many other local skateboarders, was not pleased with the park when it opened last year. Peter Costanzo, a senior at South, said he would not use the park no matter where it’s located because the equipment isn’t good enough. “I want a real skate park,” he said.
Mayor Ed Fare said he would consider building a permanent skate park in the village if there was a demand for it, but so far there hasn’t been. With the impending move to Hendrickson Park, Fare is hoping to increase membership.
“It’s not like ‘Field of Dreams’ — if you build it, they will come,” Fare said. “People have to know where it is and what it involves.
“I think you get an increased visibility,” he added of the new location. “Now it’s an open area with concrete and blacktop.”
According to Village Clerk Bob Barra, the skate equipment is getting very little use at the hockey rink, and village officials want it in an area where more kids congregate. “We were constantly monitoring it and we were looking at it, and we weren’t getting our bang for the buck there,” Barra said, “so we decided that we needed to change it.”
Sixty-one people have signed up for the skate park since it opened, but 34 of those memberships expired in August, Barra said. There are currently 27 active members.
Barra added that the park would be open during the same hours at Hendrickson Park as it is now, and, like the current location, a member of the Recreation Department would be there to supervise the activity.
Since the park opened, the village has heard complaints from boarders who say there are too many rules. “I could definitely see more people going as long as the rules stay to a minimum [and are] not enforced as harshly,” Savillo said of the new location. “They are really still unnecessary.”
When the park opened, everyone who used it was required to wear safety equipment, including helmets and knee, elbow and wrist pads. After gathering feedback from skaters, the village changed the equipment rules: kids ages 7 to 10 are required to wear all safety equipment, while those ages 11-17 must wear helmets, knee pads and elbow pads, and adults 18 and older are required to wear only helmets and elbow pads.
“They want a skate park to be built and we leave them alone and we never check on it, ever,” Fare said of the boarders. “But we can’t do that. We’re a municipality.”
Savillo, unlike Costanzo, said he would try the new location, but would like to leave the rules at the hockey rink. “We’re just human beings trying to have fun, stay safe and play, not punk skateboarders,” he said.
Tom McVeigh, owner of the Mass Transit skate shop on Rockaway Avenue, said he didn’t think a change in location would do much good because his clientele doesn’t like the equipment — mainly because it is portable, and not permanent. “They were optimistic about a skate park coming,” McVeigh said, “but the result really wasn’t they were looking for.”
One of the upsides of owning portable equipment, Fare said, is being able to move it easily when the situation arises. “We’ve lost nothing so far because we have portable equipment,” he said.
The village provides patrons with equipment for a small fee, and members can bring guests to the park for $3 per day, or $5 for non-residents. Annual memberships cost $18 for village residents and $55 for residents of the Central High School District.
Fare has asked the Sports, Parks, Arts and Recreation Committee for its input on the planned move. SPARC consists of seven community leaders and citizens, and is chaired by Deputy Village Clerk Richard DeAngelis. It will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the move, DeAngelis said, and then report to Fare and the village board.