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SK8 Croton No More

December 30, 2005

croton-skate-park-to-close.jpgThree years ago, a group of residents who called themselves “SK8 Croton” successfully lobbied the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Board of Trustees to unanimously pass a resolution on May 20, 2002 to move forward with construction of a new skate park to be located at Municipal Place.

Members of the board, including Trustees Georgianna Grant, Deb McCarthy, Dr. Gregory Schmidt, Leo Wiegman and presiding Mayor Robert Elliott, authorized expenditures of nearly $150,000 to build the skate park. An investment of $62,502 went for the skate ramps alone, while additional costs for paving the site, fencing the area and acquisition of a mobile trailer with a bathroom made up the balance.

Despite opposition from some residents over such a large investment and the location of the park, at a Village Board meeting held on August 5, 2002, Trustee Deb McCarthy expressed, in support of her vote affirming of the resolution, that “it is more than 20-30 kids who wanted it (skate park); the Village wants to meet the needs of all segments of the community”.

While attending a Village Board meeting held September 9, 2002, Croton resident Robert Wintermeier, stated “I feel that the skate park is an excellent facility – well built, well used. It attracts people to Croton. I commend the Board on this facility.”

What happened? Or what didn’t happen?

On February 15, 2005, then Trustee Dr. Gregory Schmidt reported during a Village Board meeting that the Village will be receiving a letter from the Recreation Advisory Board with a recommendation to close the Skate Board Park saying; “they feel that it does not meet the recreation rules and regulations and is losing money; any function that serves just a small part of the community should pay for itself, such as the boat basin which should not be subsidized.”

After three years of seasonal operation, only in 2005, did the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Department of Recreation, headed by Sue Menz, and the Recreation Advisory Board with its liaison now-Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt, plan and execute the park’s only two promotional events.

The first was a well-attended skateboard contest sponsored in part by 2nd Nature Skateboard Shop of Sleepy Hollow (see “Croton’s Back-flip Boy Skates to Victory”) held on June 18, 2005.

The second was formulated at a Village Board of Trustees work session held on May 9, 2005, in response to a suggestion from Trustee Charlie Kane to open the park for free to all Village residents. Trustee Jim Steinberg who was not in support of Kane’s proposition, countered with a comprise, which was passed by the board’s majority, that called for a two-week period of free admission at the skate park.

However, neither program helped to reverse the trend in declining attendance and revenue.

And despite being outlined in the Village Master Plan, as follows; “…Additional programs that focus on self-defense, gymnastics or strength training would expand the youth audience. One-time, seasonal clinics for tennis, cross-country skiing, golf, skateboarding and in-line skating could be created…”, no such instructional activities took place, ever.

As reported in The Journal News on December 28, 2005 in a piece called “Croton Skate Park to Close” by Croton resident and reporter Robert Marchant, the Croton skate park is set to close and will not reopen in 2006 with Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt being quoted as saying, “I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re heading toward”.

Attendance has slipped for two straight years since opening, resulting in a deficit of $7,000 for this calendar year.

At a Village Board of Trustees Work Session held on December 12, 2005, Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt, who originally voted in favor of the resolution and as an early backer, contributed money for the seating area to the Village, on behalf of his Chiropractic business, announced tentative plans with the Town of Cortlandt, to move the ramps from Municipal Place to a new site near the Cortlandt train station.

No financial terms or costs to acquire, dismantle and transport the equipment to the proposed site were discussed at the work session. An official resolution from the board is expected to be forthcoming.

On February 6, 2006 10:40 PM, weewill said:

You wonder why the kids don’t want to pay the $7.00 or $10.00 or whatever the fee is to use the skatepark? Go down and read the sign posted at the entrance to the park. It’s a long list of Don’ts — Don’t do this — Don’t do that —

It might as well read “No laughing, No smiling, No Having Fun.”

That skatepark has been so badly managed from the get-go. Not only was it badly managed but there were only 2 events planned that might have been enticing for the kids. As far as anyone could tell it turned into a hangout for the teen-age attendants to get paid, sit under the umbrella and listen to music and play cards.

What a shame! Don’t let it be a done deal as Mrs. Smith suggests. Let the Mayor and Board know how you feel.

On February 6, 2006 5:51 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

I fear that there is no turning back now - Dr. Schmidt stated in the North County News last week that the majority of the Board are in favor of closing down the skate park, and that it is being considered for a community center. What makes him think that kids are going to go to a community center where there will be more supervision and regulation? This is a government that has chosen it’s priorities and is not going to be swayed from them by anyone. Now that they have 74 signatures from senior citizens, I am sure that they will feel they have a mandate.

On February 6, 2006 3:56 PM, bojangles said:

Please Mr. Mayor and Trustees. Listen to those of us with kids this age who want to skate. Don’t close it down so fast. Kids are important. This is a community that treasures and protects their kids. Please don’t send them to Cortlandt. There are always some parents watching the kids skate and they can be the second pair of eyes just as parents are in all the playgrounds in Croton. This is a terrific outlet for energetic and healthy pre-teens and teens. Don’t take it away from them.

On February 6, 2006 12:26 PM, newcrotonian said:

as a croton newbie it was not long ago i drove into town looking for a place to call home. one of the first things we saw was the broken down food/gas sign not so impressive, however, i was very impressed to see the skate park. the park spoke to me of a town that put kids on equal footing with others. giving them a place to freely express themselves. personally i was excited at the prospect of letting my daughter having a place to have fun and physically (yet safely) challenge herself right in my neighborhood.

if cost is the issue that is prohibiting access perhaps there could be volunteers to attend the park. not that our taxes aren’t high enough and should be able to cover this… but what about soliciting a sponsor of the park to offset the cost for an attendant.

i applaud hippiechics comments, it is disheartening to think of kids pre/teen being cut off from a place and space for themselves. the idea is to have a place they can get to by themselves since most don’t drive.

i wasn’t here prepark but don’t relish the thought of being on a narrow (broken up) croton sidewalk with a stroller competing for space with kids on skateboards, lets give them a place to go. and figure out whether we have exhausted every possible ways to make it accessible.

On January 21, 2006 11:15 AM, bojangles said:

I beg my fellow parents to come out in force for the next village board meeting (unfortunately not scheduled until the first Monday in February) to protest in person the closing of the park. We did it before and we can do it again.

It seems the only way the board will listen is if they see lots of people in the audience who might not vote for them again if they close the park down. We need to do this before the board gives the equipment to the Town of Cortlandt or someplace else.

Come out in force and see who supports Croton kids and see who is concerned about their safety when they skate on streets. Bettter yet, call the village office and let the board members know how strongly you feel about keeping the skatepark open.

On January 21, 2006 11:09 AM, weewill said:

When you’re checking the video tapes at the library of McCarthy pounding her shoe on the table, make sure you get the one of the League of Women Voter’s candidate forum of 2002, the year the skateboard park was being considered.

None other than the now Mayor Schmidt, stated loud and clear, to a great deal of applause, that “Croton kids DESERVE a safe place to skate. I definitely support the building of a skate park.”

On January 21, 2006 10:36 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for a Reality Check. Does anyone remember why we have a skate park to begin with? When you cut away all the chaff, it is simply because then Trustee Deb McCarthy, in her never ending attempt to carve out mini-constituencies, made it politically untenable for the then Democratic majority to say no to it. Plain and simple. If you doubt what I am saying go get the videos of those meetings from the libtrary and draw your own conclusions.

Who can forget her wagging finger, accusing then Mayor Elliott of all sorts of foot dragging and failure to take care of the children? Who can forget her wagging finger accusing Village Manager Herbek of all sorts of malfeasance in not getting information sooner or faster? Who can forget her table pounding rants that the so called needs of the children be met?

Just as she did with rent control at Bari Manor, and the complete and utter politicizing of the Metro Enviro situation, former Trustee McCarthy took positions designed to advance her political agenda - namely taking control of the Village away from the sitting majority.

We live with this legacy today in the form of the secret goverbnment Schmidt/Steinberg/Brennan administration. Do we know what they are doing in all their secret back room meetings? Do we know what deals are being made out of the public eye? No we do not.

We should all learn the lesson of the skate park. The Village government has an obligation to do what is best for the Village as a whole, and that which serves the needs of a majority of citizens. Sadly, we have an administration which lurks in the shadows and does what it wants for it cronies and supporters and the rest of us be damned. Lets see how long it takes Croton to wake up.

Time for a Reality Check…

On January 14, 2006 7:10 PM, Josh said:

hippie chic: you are awesome…very, very, awesome. Dors: i like your statements, too. unfortunately, as far as PVC goes, nobody reads the paper, unless it’s to insult those who write for it =(

When the skatepark was first built tons of people used it. For 3-5 months it was packed, and then it slowly died down. Still, it was a great addition. People went there to… 1) Skateboard or rollerblade and 2) See friends and hang out. There is nothing wrong with that…closing it…eh, i don’t like that idea

On December 31, 2005 2:53 PM, dors said:

hippie chic made an interesting satement…does the mayor have an ulterior motive closing the SK8 park? We’ll wait and see.

The park is there, the money’s been spent. Keep it operational free of charge for one year. Start a media blitz with flyers in local stores, school papers and local newspapers explaining the new rules; no fees, no attendant, no parents. The kids want to skate they just want to do it without adults monitoring their every move! Allow them some freedoms and see how they do. I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

On December 31, 2005 12:22 PM, hippie chic said:

It seems clear to me that Mayor Schmidt and Trustees Brennan and Steinberg have their own agenda for closing the skate park. They want to save money and gain space for a community center.

By using the excuse that the skate park can only operate with an attendee is ridiculous. If the Schmidt administration is so concerned about injuries, then they better start hiring attendants for all the Croton-on-Hudson park facilities.

Children can get hurt anywhere, even when there are adults present. A few months ago, my friend’s son broke his leg at Sunset Park. He was using the monkey bars and fell the wrong way. His parent was right there. This is not the first accident to happen in our local parks & schools. Unfortunate events like the one I just described will happen and having an attendant present is not going to prevent them.

Additionally, if we charged money for access to all of our wonderful Croton parks, I think you would see a lot more families setting up swing sets in their own backyards or go to a neighboring town.

Why should the skate park be any different from the other playground facilities in Croton? Why not let the older kids have a place to go and have fun with their friends? The fee that is currently charged by the Recreation Department is prohibiting many children from using the facility, and can result in a case of the “haves” and the “have-nots”. When affordability is an issue for some families in Croton, charging for use can become another argument that a parent is forced to have with their child.

One of the wonderful aspects about skateboarding is that you don’t need to invest a lot of money in expensive equipment to get started. All you need is a board (which can be second-hand), a helmet and pads.

Parents can also have the satisfaction of knowing that their child will be outside getting exercise, learning a sport and interacting with other kids instead of doing solitary activities like computer games, Instant Messaging and watching TV.

The idea of moving the skate park to the Town of Cortlandt would limit Croton residents by denying safe access by foot, bicycle, skateboard, rollerblades or scooter. Skaters would have to rely on parents driving them to and from the facility. There are also no local stores around the Cortlandt train station area to patronize if kids want a beverage or something to eat.

I do think moving the facility is a good idea. Let’s go back to the original idea of having it centrally located in town, closer to the middle and high school buildings. Not only will the local merchants benefit but also our children will be in a much safer environment, away from busy streets and highways. It would be refreshing if Mayor Schmidt, Trustees Brennan and Steinberg and Recreation Supervisor Sue Menz focused their energies on improving this park instead of giving up and running it out of town.

On December 31, 2005 10:41 AM, TeaDrinker said:

This comment is posted on behalf of Ex-Trustee Georgianna Grant via email request.

As a former Village Trustee who sat through numerous meetings discussing the pros and cons of a skate park in Croton, I reluctantly was brought around to a vote in favor of the construction. My initial reluctance was a big resounding “No” due to the belief that skateboarding was a fad that would die and go the way of the hoola- hoop of years ago and I was prepared to vote against it.

The well over 100 kids and their parents who came and pleaded with the board to give them a chance persuaded me to vote to give it a try.

They convinced me it was not a passing fad and that it would be a tremendous addition to the recreational activities available. More importantly, it would lesson the number of kids skating on sidewalks, parking lots and in the streets of Croton. The safety improvements could not be ignored and the board voted to approve the construction.

The mistake we made was in requiring a fee to use the park, paying an attendant to watch over the kids and even paying a significant amount of money to fence it in and to supply a trailer for the attendant. Not only did it make it too expensive for many kids but it resulted in a very unwelcome and “keep out” kind of message.

I was wrong in my initial opposition.

Skateboarding is no fad and the kids are still skateboarding in what appears to be increasing numbers, but on the streets and sidewalks! The issue of safety as they roar down the streets, sidewalks and in parking lots will only increase with the closing of the park. This was the main focus of the decision to construct a park in the first place. It hasn’t gone away.

There are numerous, unattended and free parks open to the public in many communities. There’s even one in Central Park in NY City.

We have the most wonderful system of neighborhood playgrounds in Croton and NONE have attendants or generate income. Swings, jungle gyms, spinning merry-go-rounds, climbing structures, basketball courts, and yes even Black Rock and Senasqua. None generate revenue and none are attended.

The skate park doesn’t present any more danger than these other parks and certainly less danger than having the kids skate on the streets and sidewalks.

Croton prides itself on being a child-oriented community. Let’s do right by our kids and keep the skate park open and free. It’s premature to walk away after such a limited trial. Try it free for a full year and then make your decision.

Georgianna Grant

On December 30, 2005 6:53 PM, waffels said:

I am curious as to why/how there are “free” open skating facilitys all over the country. Why is a skate park any different than a spinning merry-go-round or any other moving piece of playground equipment as far as liabilty is concerned. Aren’t there umbrella policys with skating associations the village could join that would cover the liability. Isn’t the threat of liability present no matter how much insurance the village has and how any policy reads. I would think that there are avenues the village could take that would allow the “many” skaters to continue to use this facility. Just because it doesn’t make money doesn’t mean it’s not being used. There was a full time employee there whenever it was open. The loss was only because we were paying this person. 1000’s of users anually is plenty of use. This should be a park, open to all and it would be a wonderful addition to our village. As a pay as you go facility it is doomed to die and this would be sad, and a waste of money.



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