State of the City | Legendary Brooklyn Banks skatepark set to reopen under Adams, Tony Hawk plan

The legendary skatepark under the Brooklyn Bridge’s Manhattan end is set to reopen after more than a decade behind a padlock, under a plan set in motion by Mayor Eric Adams and skating legend Tony Hawk.

For decades, the Brooklyn Banks was the unofficial Mecca of skateboarding in New York City, where aficionados of the sport from the five boroughs and beyond gathered with one another to perform and appreciate their sickest kickflips and gnarliest grinds.

The plaza wasn’t designed for skating, but quickly became a home for the sport as skaters recognized the space’s potential, with an embankment that effectively allowed for massive air time to do cool tricks, along with railings and barriers that provided obstacles to be conquered.

Everything changed in 2010, though, when the Banks were shuttered for construction on the bridge; the spot has been locked up ever since.

The Banks were the city’s most famous spot for skaters and BMX riders to do sick tricks and gnarly grinds.Zombieite via Wikimedia Commons

Now, the city wants to reopen it as part of a larger vision for the area called Gotham Park, which will also include basketball courts, a pedestrian plaza, playgrounds, and public art.

Mayor Adams announced the move as part of his State of the City proposal, with Hawk’s Skatepark Project — a nonprofit funding the preservation of old skateparks and development of new ones across the country — slated to redevelop the Banks into a skater’s paradise.

“On behalf of The Skatepark Project and the skaters of New York: Thanks to the community for their vision and hard work to make this announcement possible, and especially to Mayor Adams for listening and recognizing this rare opportunity to keep the Brooklyn Banks legacy alive,” Hawk said in a statement.

Despite his iconic status within the sport, Hawk himself never actually got to skate at the Banks: according to the New York Times, which first reported the news on Thursday, Hawk visited the park in the early 1990s but was unable to partake due to an ankle injury. Hawk potentially recorded millions of hours at the park through his virtual alter ego, though, as the Banks feature prominently in his line of skating video games.

Tony Hawk in Denmark in 2015. Hawk’s Skatepark Project is helming the restoration of the Banks.Stig Nygaard via Wikimedia Commons

Apprehension was high at the turn of the last decade among the skating community as the city announced the park’s closure for bridge repairs. The fears seemingly came to fruition: the park did not reopen after the promised four-year closure, though the restoration work technically remains ongoing, the Times reported.

Pessimism ran even higher when the city started removing iconic redbricks from the plaza during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many skaters interpreting the move as the park’s official death. A petition to save the Banks garnered more than 53,000 signatures, and local skating legend Steve Rodriguez formed a nonprofit group to advocate for the spot’s restoration.

The Brooklyn Banks restoration is one component of a $375 million investment, announced by the mayor in his State of the City speech, to create “extraordinary new public spaces.” The mayor is also set to appoint a new “director of the public realm,” a czar of sorts to coordinate the city’s investments in new and improved public space.

“The pandemic highlighted the critical role of parks, playgrounds, and waterfronts play in improving the physical and mental health of all New Yorkers,” Hizzoner said in his speech at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadow. “Building on the commitments Governor Hochul and I announced in our “New New York,” we’re going to create extraordinary new public spaces in every borough in this city. We will invest more than $375 million in new parks and plaza, widen sidewalks, safer intersections, expand bike lanes and inviting landscape.”