Filling the normally quiet Riverside Skate Park with the sounds of blasting music and whooshing skateboard wheels, skaters of all ages gathered for the inaugural Riverside Skate Jam on Sunday afternoon.
The event, which was held at the Riverside Skate Park on 108th Street, celebrated renovations that were completed in the past year. The skate park is a volunteer-supported haven that attracts skaters from downtown for its vertical ramps—unique among skate parks in the city.
Regulars honored the memory of Andy Kessler, who spearheaded the 1996 construction of the park and died in 2009.
“So many people got touched by this guy,” said Irene Ching, an organizer with volunteer group Sk8108, which maintains the park. “You mention the guy’s name, and everyone’s got a story about him.”
Ching also said Sk8108 was looking to open the skate park more regularly, as it had only a two-month season in 2012 and a four- to five-month season this year.
Sk8108 organizer Ian Clarke said the event, which was also planned by the Riverside Park Conservancy, aimed to “get the word out that this park is here, and it’s ready to skate, and come and enjoy it.”
“This is New York’s first solid skate park,” Clarke said. “We’ve done a lot of work to bring it back, redevelop it.”
The schedule of events featured several levels of skating competitions, lessons, and giveaways. The competitions included a children’s run on the miniature ramps as well as contests on the large vertical ramp.
John Fudala, who sent a group of kids weaving through the ramps for a beginners’ skating workshop, said he tried to frame skateboard competitions for kids in terms of video games.
“I tell the kids that you’re in a video game, and who doesn’t love video games?” Fudala, who runs a skate camp, said. “They get it, and they start to play along.”
Evan Tarozzi, six, who has been skating since he was three and took third place in the beginners’ mini-ramp, said he enjoyed the competition.
His dad, Marc Tarozzi, said they had come from the West Village specifically to enjoy this park, as “it has a big vert ramp.”
Charles Richardson, whose son Milo took home second place in the intermediate kids’ competition, said they had also come up from downtown.
“He likes it here,” Richardson said, adding that there was generally “not a lot of competition” around.
Zhen Heinemann, a park and recreation manager at Riverside, said the event was “helping the community come out and come together and celebrate this skate park.”
She said she hoped another skate jam would be held here next spring or fall, and that the event reflected “Andy’s spirit shining down on us”—plus a few more wheel marks on the ramps.
Clarke said that it testified to the skate park’s local base of support.
“This event was created by New York City skaters. This is not by some big-name sponsor or a big company,” Clarke said, but “a grassroots thing created by skaters who love skating, who love the skate park, who want to keep this place alive.”