Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

No loitering, no skateboarding, no baggy pants

"Dreams & Nightmares" from Park Powers, 2016-7. Courtesy Hector Urban Design, Planning and Civic Arts.

Sometimes it seems like there is nowhere for teens to be.
Here’s what they are doing about it.

Harold Ickes Playground doesn’t look like much: a paved ballfield atop the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, surrounded by a chain-link fence., One of its closest neighbors is the Brooklyn Tesla dealership, and it is prone to winds off the waterfront. But to high school students from Red Hook Initiative’s youth organizing group, it was perfect.

Two years ago, they decided Red Hook needed a skate park—but without a location, the idea went nowhere. One year ago, they surveyed the parks in the neighborhood, and picked Harold Ickes as their spot. Having solved one problem, another reared its head: the build-out would cost $3 million, far more than the average participatory budgeting project.

“We went to [Councilman] Carlos Menchaca and asked him, What can we do to get the skate park funded?” says group member John Texidor, now 20. “He said he would be willing to give $1 million if participatory budgeting is willing to give $1M—[and then he’d go] to Brad Lander and ask him to give $1 million. All we have to do is get signatures to show that we want the park.” Texidor and his teenage compatriots eventually collected 800 signatures from their neighbors.

“They would ask, ‘What do we need a skate park for? We need a supermarket!’ They could be very close-minded about it,” says Texidor.” I had to explain to them it is not only for kids, it is for adults. It could be a hangout spot.”