For decades, the most famous skate spot in New York City was the legendary Brooklyn Banks, a collection of features and embankments underneath and adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge that welcomed skaters and BMXers alike.
Sadly, all the fun ended in 2010 when New York City turned the Banks into storage for a restoration project. But this summer, riders and skaters are returning to the Brooklyn waterfront thanks to the new Brooklyn Bike Park.
Located next to the Williamsburg Bridge, the land for the track was shared with the New York City Mountain Bike Association (NYCMTB) and Brooklyn Farms by a developer, Two Trees Management Company. The plot is slated for a future Two Trees’ development featuring five high-rise buildings. But construction won’t occur on parcel for a while, so the track will to be around for at least three years.
Since the track is asphalt instead of the typical material — dirt — maintenance is minimal. And, more importantly to skaters, asphalt makes the track possible to skateboard on. But putting these two groups together in the same spot is rare.
BMXers and skaters in traditional skateparks are often at odds because these two users go at different speeds and take different lines, which can result in collisions.
But this isn’t a typical skatepark.
"Here the flow of the track just happens. Everyone is just riding that same wave, so it has a surfer-zen quality to the atmosphere. Whether you're riding a bike or a board, it doesn't matter," said the President of Velosolutions USA, Alon Karpman.
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Velosolutions USA is responsible for building the track and is the American chapter of the company that's based in Switzerland and run by retired downhill mountain bike pro, Claudio Caluori.
Velosolutions, on a while, has built more than 25 tracks around the world.
And while the Brooklyn track was built by Velosolutions USA, it will be run by NYCMTB and Skateboard Supercross (SBSX).
Not familiar with the latter? Skateboard Supercross is like a BMX race on skateboards. Skaters have to "pump" to propel themselves through the course.
Track privileges are currently limited to members. A membership for kids under 16 years old is $60 for 30 days and it's $100 for adults.
Volunteer-run, Brooklyn Bike Park membership dollars go to insurance for the park, which, according to organizers, has tripled in the past 12 months.
This is the second iteration of the Brooklyn Bike Park. The first was across the street from the current location and was closed when the developers began building on that parcel.
Brooklyn Bike Park 2.0 has been in the works for about 11 months. Organizers reached out to Velosolutions USA in August and the two started working together in earnest about three months later. Once the plans were firmed up, the build took about three weeks.
Construction was made more difficult by a heat wave that made manual labor and pouring hot asphalt more challenging.
The asphalt also acts as a 3D canvas for the English-born artist who currently calls Williamsburg home, Jon Burgerman. Known for colorful doodles and characters, Burgerman was an inspired choice because he's the heir apparent to the NYC artist who popularized colorful murals and illustrations in the public space in the ’80s before rising to international fame, Keith Haring.
Other cities like Washington D.C. and various municipalities in California have expressed interest in getting their own asphalt pump tracks.
Although Velosolutions USA volunteered their expertise for the Brooklyn Bike Park, Karpman estimates that the cost to build a medium-sized asphalt track is about $175,000.
Recently opened, early reports on the park have been favorable. Skaters and BMXers are getting along. And beginners are learning how to ride.
"The best part is when you're done and you see someone get on the track for the first time and you see their face light up. To see everyone get stoked, there's nothing like it," said Karpman.
The Brooklyn Bike Park is located at 318 Kent Ave Brooklyn, NY 11249. For more info, check out their website.
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