Saturday, July 25, 2009

Standing Room Only at the Sprinklers

For a full third of the perimeter, the benches around the sprinklers have been removed. Why? Well, several times since late Winter, they have been found propped up against the shallow steps as slides (or whatever the "proper" terminology is) for the skateboarding/roller-blading whipper-snappers.

Selfish. Destructive. Ugly. That's the behavior that leads to actions like this.

Ever since the walkways on the 44th side of the park were re-paved, they've been popular with the skateboarders. Last year, most of the kids were very good about halting their kickflips and so on when other park-goers passed through. It is, after all, a public walkway and not a skatepark.

This year, the group has gotten a lot bigger, and they don't stop for anyone. In fact, several times, I've seen and heard about skateboards spinning pretty darn close to adult knees and smaller beings' heads. When it's early, I've asked them to wait while I pass by, and they do. But when it's a large group, it becomes far too uncool to even acknowledge someone in my advanced state of whatever-the-opposite-of-cool is.

I guess using the entrance and a chunk of the walkway isn't enough excitement for our skateboarders (and possibly the relative newcomers - the rollerbladers by the concrete steps). They need more, they need to improvise ways to grind and whatever else they do for an adrenalin rush. Apparently, the City's skatepark over in Owl's Head isn't good enough (or maybe they aren't good enough). It's more fun to remove seating around a highly trafficked part of the park that's used by hundreds of people every hot day. The good news is, there is a finite supply of benches around the sprinklers, so it will have to end at some point. The bad news is, most of the shady spots are already gone, and we're playing a warped game of musical chairs every time we go to the sprinklers to cool off.

For the benefit of one or two commenters: I know, I know. This is a yuppie, destruction of Sunset Park attitude. Wanting to keep the park in a useable state for the majority of Park-goers is disrespectful of what Sunset Park is and how it's always been.

Please. Sorry: Puh-Lease.


Anonymous said...

I think the part of this that you're really gonna have a hard time wrapping your head around ( I know it was hard for me ) is that the majority of people who live in the slum you live in _like_ it to be a slum. They _like_ the garbage on the streets, the gangs, the drug dealing and the street violence. It's basically been a slum since the elevated highway was built. First for italian and irish immigrants, and now the latinos. The Chinese OTOH _don't_ like slums, and their part of the nabe reflects that. Perhaps you should try the other side of the hill, you may find it a lot more to your liking. The worst complaint friends had there was the smell of the fish market in the summer. This as opposed to the NYPD digging a stray bullet out of your plasterboard every summer.

BestViewInBrooklyn said...

You're right, my head isn't flexible enough to wrap around that. And if I thought your comments were anything more than an attempt at trolling to raise hackles, I'd respond more fully.

Unknown said...

I'm really sorry some people feel the need to generalize and make disparaging remarks about groups of people.

I appreciate your posts and am sad to learn about the bench issue.

Krissa said...

I don't think it's some unfair yuppie construct to want our neighborhood park free of trash and vandalism; I don't buy the argument that destruction of public property is cultural or desirable by anyone, and I don't buy the argument that there's one or another cultural group that idealizes or supports destruction and vandalism.

I think what we have in Sunset Park is a lot of people using the park and not enough awareness of what it takes to keep and maintain public spaces like this; when people aren't aware of the effort and the fragility of these services, they take them for granted. It's not cultural, it's educational and social.

And I live in the Chinese section of Sunset Park and depending on who's living on which block, there can be just as much disregard for public space as any other neighborhood. Again, if people aren't mindful of their neighbors and their city services, they're going to be disrespectful to both, regardless of cultural background.

Personally, I've taken to pointing out to people when they throw trash on the floor in the park with a polite but pointed "you dropped that". Sometimes I get dirty looks or yelled at, but I can't think what else I can do to contribute to the problem!

Anonymous said...

The definition of slum must have changed. Last I heard a neighborhood where numerous turn-of-the century limestone row-houses have been converted into flophouses for indentured servants, where whorehouses are run out of residential basements and where underage Vietnamese & Laotian girls service the clients, where you find factories with 12-hour shifts and without sufficient exits, where Senior Centers funded by the Dept. of the Aging front as gambling dens qualifies as a slum, etc. qualifies as a slum.

Looks like anonymous needs to take his/hers blinders off and hit the streets with eyes wide open.

Vanessa said...

Not sure where “the other side of the hill “ is exactly but if the first Anonymous means Borough Park, well…..stay there. Or if they mean 8th ave’s new china town… I like that there is now something on that avenue because for years it was desolate - unfortunately, some parts look like a 99 cent store threw up on every corner, similar to parts of 5th ave… but at least there is a business boom. More people = more money = better economy.

While I agree that no one likes to live in a trashy “slum” I too have a difficult time “wrapping my head around” your racist, classless, xenophobic diatribe. Clearly you have no understanding of the area, and how it was written off for most of the 70s – 90s by the city and local government. However, thankfully good people have stayed and others have moved in, creating a wonderful & culturally rich, neighborhood. While we have faults and issues to deal with (as all neighborhoods do), it is comforting to know that as we continue to live and play in Sunset Park, people like the 1st Anonymous evidently do not reside here.

Jess Wisloski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess W. said...

Me and my partner are especially aware of this since I've been on crutches/a walker lately. Sure, it's tough to plow through them, and a real loss that the Parks Dept. took the benches. But I blame Parks & Rec. Teenage skate punks haven't changed for decades, and frankly, I kind of like seeing them. It reminds me that skating isn't dead, and what a peaceable and diverse neighborhood we live in. The kids are all different ages, from 10 to 20-somethings, and you see them all getting along for the sake of...doing jumps. Sharing trade secrets. Showing off. It's inconvenient and adorable. I propose they move to that area next to the bleachers - it's effectively a dead-end. Maybe collective suggestion can turn the tide? Also: I have seen cops disperse the group, on July 15. Since then it seems less nutty there.

Jess W. said...

Follow up on the skater punk post: Tonight on my way home I wandered through the sprinklers. And saw two, younger bike kids enjoying two felled cement bench tops laid in slant along the stairs there. The kids were two small to have moved them, but those slabs were way too heavy for even possibly 3 or 4 older kids to carry with any ease. I still blame Parks - those benches HAD to have been broken already, and for anyone to sit on them would've been a hazard anyway.

Skate punks were in their regular space, and I noted one with a salvaged seatless wooden chair for a prop. No slabs.

BestViewInBrooklyn said...

Hey Jess,

Thank you for the thoughtful comments. And your knee surgery blog is amazing - what a great resource for those going through it!

I also find the skateboarders fantastic in many ways, but not when their boards come flying at my toddler's head. As I mentioned first, the group last year was much more friendly and courteous. I'm guessing it has more to do with the group being more local and few in number. The larger a group of teens, the less courteous they get. (Totally unscientific study based on 15 years of teaching high school.)

The benches have been slowly declining in number since the winter, and they usually end up slanted against the steps for grinding and jumping. The fault of the Parks Department is not removing the improvised slides quickly. If they were removed right away, it would become too much trouble to "re-do" the set-up each time.

Other vandalism that doesn't bother me as much (I know it's a grey area) is when the kids remove the screws on the gates to be able to grind along them. Since the gates area is also soldered, it doesn't seem like vandalism that would affect the use/purpose of the gates. I'm probably wrong about that, but there's my rationalization of their behavior.

PS: Some of them also use overturned trash cans to jump over - and dump the trash out onto the walkway.

KING TUT said...

Just a reminder to everyone that skateboarding is healthy activity that is keeping these kids you are complaining about from actually joining gangs, doing/selling drugs, and god knows what else..
You should take a moment to look at the broader picture before you start labeling these kids "punks".
You might not be so quick to judge when it's your child one day who picks up a skateboard instead of a gun.

BestViewInBrooklyn said...

I don't think anyone is complaining about the activity; they could be playing shuffleboard for all I care. It's the behavior surrounding the activity that causes a problem. It's not okay for anyone to flip a heavy object at anyone else. And it's not okay for anyone to destroy property that ALL park goers are supposed to be using.

PS: At least a couple of the kids are members of gangs, or they are trying really hard to act like it. Most of them are not, however. And their hairstyles are excellent.

dividend said...

BestViewInBrooklyn: You need to be more careful about voice. When you write, "Wanting to keep the park in a useable state for the majority of Park-goers," you're claiming to speak for others. Your definition of "majority," "useable,"-- heck, even "want" and "Park"-- are completely up for grabs here, subject to myriad interpretations. If you've gone around and taken what you feel is a comprehensive survey of area people's views on the issue to support what you've written, then by all means present it. Then again, it seems as though you're frightened to actually talk to people in your neighborhood and use your blog as a means of retreat.

Regarding skateboarders-- if they are misusing public items, they are doing so because of lack of other resources in the area. I absolutely guarantee you they will continue to do this here, or somewhere close by, unless some sort of special public accomodation is made.

BestViewInBrooklyn said...


Not to worry. I don't claim to speak for anyone else. The action in the statement is "wanting" - and the subject is the speaker. Me. It's my blog, so I speak for myself unless I've stated that others have "told me so." You can see that many times in different posts.

The reason for that last section is that previous responses to other posts have accused me and other commenters of wanting to change the neighborhood in a disrespectful way. I have to wonder why those same people don't seem to think actions like those described in this posting create disrespectful changes.

The definitions are not up for grabs. Words need to be considered in context, and the meanings are pretty clear. "Majority" = most of the park-goers. "Useable" = the benches are meant to be used for sitting/resting/watching people playing and cooling off in the sprinklers.

I don't even understand what you're talking about when you say that I'm frightened. Not that I haven't been frightened in my life, but despite being shy in some life situations, it hasn't affected my discussions and questioning of people in my neighborhood. Saying I'm frightened to talk to people in my neighborhood is actually pretty funny. So, thanks for that!

There is public accomodation: Owl's Head has a skate park.

dividend said...

Once again, how did you decide that "majority" means "most of the park goers?" That's not speaking for yourself, unless you are the only person who uses the park. You cannot and will not speak for what you imagine to be a "majority" or "most of the park-goers." If you intend to be only speaking for yourself, then you need to use "I," not "majority," the letter necessarily referring to everyone in your thoroughly unsubstantiated, "wanting" estimation.

Might I add that what you're "wanting" is the controlled environment of a back yard, not a park.

It is the behavior and attitude of folks like you in the park that I (notice the use of the "I") find despicable, ruffian, divisive, and nasty. How would you feel if I decided to proclaim that "the majority of park-goers" want folks exhibiting your behavior to move to Plainview, Long Island?

You are slowly being dragged, kicking and screaming, from your 2005-era gentrification fantasy bubble. I, for one, am happy to see this lovely neighborhood and park moving closer again to real, vibrant, Brooklyn life.

Anonymous said...

@ dividend:

Since you're taking BVIB to task for her supposed presumption in speaking for someone other than herself, might I inquire how it is that you presume to speak for whoever has vandalized the sprinkler-area benches? You do so by saying this:

"Regarding skateboarders-- if they are misusing public items, they are doing so because of lack of other resources in the area. I absolutely guarantee you they will continue to do this here, or somewhere close by, unless some sort of special public accomodation (sic) is made."

Really? You "absolutely guarantee" this? Seems rather rash for someone who puts on the air of verbal exactitude. Does your claim mean that you are one of the skateboarders, and know each and every one of their minds as well as you know your own?

And are you absolutely sure about your assertion that "if they are misusing public items," it must be "because of lack of other resources in the area"? Mightn't it be simply because they like busting stuff up? Or any number of other reasons?

And since you seem so fond of pinning down others on distinctions and definitions, perhaps you could tell us whether or not you accept that the primary definition of a bench is "a long seat for several persons", and whether you also accept that the removal and destruction of the benches around the sprinkler area necessarily means that people who previously were able to sit down in that area are now unable to do so. Finally, will you grant that it's likely that the number of people who have used and would continue to use those benches in the manner for which they were built (i.e., as seats) far exceeds the number of people who destroyed them? If you won't concede this last point, then you clearly don't visit the park very often.

If you *do* concede these three points, then I don't see how you can make much lemonade out of this particular lemon. Seems pretty much axiomatic that the few (of a very limited demographic, I might add) have imposed their will on the many (of several different ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds) via an illegal act performed on public property.

Your attempt to link BVIB to a type ("folks like you") that you clearly despise and to attribute "behavior" to her that you characterize as "despicable, ruffian, divisive, and nasty" would be offensive if it weren't so laughably off base. She appreciates this "lovely neighborhood" for what it is, not because she wants to transform it into a "gentrification fantasy", or any other fantasy, for that matter.