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Uncle Sam Skates

by Erin Pihlaja on December 6, 2012

 

Shredders' paradise: Greene in the proposed space under Route 7. Photo by Erin Pihlaja.

Glass shards from broken liquor bottles lie on the cement; small testaments of illicit behavior that goes largely unchecked under the highways at the foot of Hoosick Street, just before the Hudson River. Someone once attempted to make this place usable. A basketball court was built, benches were installed in small pocket parks, and murals were painted on the highway supports.

Today this is no-man’s land, one of many forgotten spaces in Troy. But where many see danger and neglect, Billie-Jean Greene sees promise.

Greene would like to see this space, and possibly the parking lot west of it, turned into a skate park for skateboarders. “There are none in the Capital District, or safe places for kids to skate,” she said. “They skate in the streets. This would bring art and culture to the city and be a real destination place for the city of Troy.”

About a year ago, Greene formed a committee called the Collar City Skate Park Initiative with people who were interested in building a recreational facility. Greene said the city is “favorable” to the idea and George Rogers, Troy’s Parks and Recreation director, wrote a letter of support to Mayor Rosamilia. Rogers recommended the Knickerbocker Park as a potential site—which Greene would be happy with. In the letter he also said, “I feel this will be an asset to our community and more specifically a positive and safe space for our youth. In my tenure as the owner and founder of the South Troy Dodgers, I have seen what a positive impact sports can have in a child’s life.”

“Once people get that it is a sport, changing the mentality towards skateboarding is easy,” said Shari Franks, the recreational director for the Town of Chatham. “It’s an individual type of sport with a level playing field. Everybody can have a piece of it.” Franks has been helping the Collar City Skate Park Initiative in its planning phases.

Last year in Chatham, Franks helped to oversee the building of a 2400-square-foot skate park. “It’s definitely fulfilled a need in our community,” she said. “People drive here from other places to skate it. They also utilize the businesses here. It’s been really positive.”

Greene said that the project will not need any funding from the city. She plans on applying for assistance from the Tony Hawk Foundation, seeking private donations and grants, and holding fundraisers to raise the cash for what she hopes will be a 10,000-square-foot park. She noted that it may take a long time to bring the idea to fruition. “This is a process,” she said. “But we’re going to stick with it.”