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Public Spaces


Overregulation of Silver Spring plaza harms vibrancy

Urban spaces thrive on spontaneity. We might want to impose rules on a park or plaza to make it seem safer or more pristine, but excessive regulations could kill the vibrancy that people go there for. Sometimes, we have to let people police themselves.


Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring. Photo by author.

Millions of dollars of public and private funding have gone into downtown Silver Spring over the past ten years, bringing with it new businesses, new residents and no shortage of programmed events, from an annual documentary film festival to weekly concerts on Ellsworth Drive.

But the most invigorating scenes I've witnessed here were largely spontaneous: Hare Krishnas gathering on Ellsworth Drive; a weekly drum circle; skateboarders doing tricks before a crowd. In recent weeks, I've seen all three take place within the new Veterans Plaza at the same time.

And a funny thing happened: people got along, setting norms for how they and other users should share the space, and enjoyed themselves. That's possible in a safe, well-designed urban space like Veterans Plaza.

Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, understands this. He's been tirelessly working to help organize activities in Veterans Plaza, both in meetings and on his blog. "No government initiative can do this. No institution or organization can be expected to solely lead the charge," he writes. "This is something that must grow organically, from within the community, for the community, by the community."


Over 70 attended a barbeque at the Woodside skate spot last weekend. Photo by author.
Yet his goodwill is shot by County Executive Ike Leggett's decision to boot skaters out of Veterans Plaza and into the newly-opened Woodside skate spot, located in a quiet residential neighborhood several blocks away. Neighbors are already complaining about noise, trash, and misbehavior, while skaters say the space is far too small for them to use, with over fifty kids there on a normal afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Regional Services Center hasn't really made a case for the ban, only talking to skaters protesting the ban after after it took effect. I spoke to Gwen Haney of the Regional Services Center, who told me that skateboarding "damages" the concrete covering the ice rink, yet last week I saw a concert in the same space with a big, heavy stage and multiple SUVs parked behind it. Couldn't a 3,000-pound truck create more damage than a kid with a piece of wood?

Haney also told me that she "heard the thumps" of skaters in the plaza and was annoyed. But that noise is easily drowned out by rush hour traffic, idling trucks, passing trains, planes flying overhead, sirens, the screams of young children, and loud music from live concerts. This isn't a library, it's a plaza in the middle of an urban area. Noise is to be expected.

And even Rodriguez' own statement on the decision insists that there's no way to "consistently and successfully [regulate]" skateboarding in the plaza. Yet I've seen a security guard hustling eight-year-olds with rollerblades out of the plaza, and cops regularly patrol the space. It appears that regulation is possible, so why isn't the county willing to consider it?

Though there's been a lot of talk about letting spontaneity rule in Veterans Plaza, Montgomery County has firmly led the charge on how this public space is being used. It's a very suburban response: if we don't like something, we'll send it somewhere else. While it hasn't necessarily made the plaza a less vibrant place - as Cavan Wilk pointed out yesterday, people continue to flock there - it sets a bad precedent for dealing with future conflicts in the space.


Rodriguez talks to police officers who confiscated two teens' skateboards
after a meeting last month. Photo by Chip Py.

The great challenge of Veterans Plaza, its predecessor "the Turf," or any urban public space is that people will do things in it you do not like, and we still have to accommodate them. This area is vibrant, sometimes messy. Of course, no one wants to see people getting hurt or robbed there. But concerns about crime shouldn't prompt us to try and control how our public spaces are used.

Ever since the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring began, I've had to defend it from people who complain that it feels "fake," "sterile," or "commercialized." As I always say, "the buildings are fake, but the people are real." Public spaces like Veterans Plaza allow us to create our own culture, drawing people who aren't interested in places like Bethesda and Clarendon where redevelopment has made them less diverse, not more so.

To me, skaters are a representation of Silver Spring's local culture. In downtown Silver Spring, skaters from affluent Chevy Chase and Kensington rub elbows with skaters from poor Langley Park and Petworth. Like the filmmakers who come here for the SilverDocs festival each summer, our skaters have built a pastime for themselves and those who watch them. The skaters I've met are smart, well-spoken and trying to become engaged in the community, which sounds right in line with Silver Spring's history of liberal activism.

Yet County Executive Ike Leggett's sent a message to them, and to all of us, that it's not worth fighting for something you care about. Those in charge won't listen to you, and they won't give you good excuses, either.

A good square is a democracy - it gives people a place to call their own, but hopefully gives them a conscience about how their actions affect others. Users of Veterans Plaza deserve a chance to show they can take care of it. So far, they haven't been given one.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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Overregulation of public spaces kills vibrancy?

Three words: "Keep off grass."

by Erik W on Aug 13, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

One person's "vibrancy" is another person's blight. More on that in a minute--but first: Clarendon IS diverse. I see lots of South Asian and East Asian Americans, some African Americans, Latinos, gay people; pretty much everybody you can think of is there. Are there many low-income people? No.

On this sacred cow of "vibrancy": No way would I want a bunch of hippies banging drums anywhere near where I live--nor would I be happy about any en masse proselytizing (by anyone). People shopping? Pushing strollers? Walking dogs? Reading the paper? Playing chess? Fine! But selling crap from tables? Playing musical instruments? Move along.

People on GGW toss the word "vibrancy" around a lot--and yet all I can tell is that it means "a big, loud crowd of people."

by JB on Aug 13, 2010 4:52 pm • linkreport

It's a very suburban response: if we don't like something, we'll send it somewhere else.

WTF? If the key distinction between "suburban" and "urban" is that the "suburban" policy is to prevent undesired behavior, while the "urban" policy is to allow it, then give me the suburbs every time!

I pray and hope that successful urban policy doesn't mean a lack of rules and enforcement; if it does then our cities are doomed. Hasn't NYC thrived on stricter enforcement against antisocial behavior?

by David desJardins on Aug 13, 2010 5:23 pm • linkreport

@David, You make excellent points. I'd like to add to that there really is a 'time and place' for everything. And while we may not all like everything (for example I agree with you completely about the drums ... banging drums doesn't belong in a civilized society), provided we don't force our choices on others there's no reason that it can't happen ... It's just the 'where' that is in question. For example, if someone wants to bang drums, they should do it indoors ... or if they want to blair their stereo in their car, they should be sure their car windows are tightly shut. No one should be telling someone else what to do ... But by the same token, no one should be being told what to listen to or put up with if it doesn't respect their personal rights.

by Lance on Aug 13, 2010 5:55 pm • linkreport

P.S. Just a clarification on my drum statement. I think they're great to listen to as part of a concert or the like, but please don't go playing them in a city park thinking everyone else enjoys your rhythm. For example, I remember being up by Meridian Hill Park one Sunday, and the most obnoxious drum noises were coming out or there ruining what should have been a beautiful day. I.e., Don't assume everyone likes everything you do ...

by Lance on Aug 13, 2010 5:58 pm • linkreport

Your first four paragraphs are well said Dan. Anyone who's ever spent a night on the Spanish Stairs in Rome knows you're right.

by Matthew Jarvis on Aug 13, 2010 6:02 pm • linkreport

"like Bethesda and Clarendon where redevelopment has made them less diverse, not more so"

Clarendon is more diverse than it was 15 years ago. Its just a different kind of diversity.

by spookiness on Aug 13, 2010 6:19 pm • linkreport

Well said, Dan. In a public space, you don't get to pick and choose the type of public that is permitted to be there.

by aaa on Aug 13, 2010 9:08 pm • linkreport

While skateboarding may or may not damage concrete, it certainly does beat up the steps and benches. I agree that there probably should be a place for the skateboarders, a busy gathering place isn't a great spot for sports that involve hurtling through the air with a big plank. That's why polite people don't ride bicycles through crowds.

by Michael on Aug 14, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

aaa wrote: "In a public space, you don't get to pick and choose the type of public that is permitted to be there."

Yes, but residents of a community DO get to pick what types of activities are permitted to happen there. If the locals of Silver Spring are happy with drumming, skateboarding, and proselytizing, then that is their right--and I'll remain among the many people who will not go to downtown Silver Spring for any reason.

Re. skateboarding: There are many sports whose performance in a public space violates the rights of others to peacefully enjoy that space. It really depends on the space. I'm a snowboarder, and I respect the skill skateboarding requires--but there's no denying that it is loud, the path of travel is hard to control, and it does over time damage public infrastructure in ways that other activities do not.

by JB on Aug 14, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

What's missing from this conversation is the fact that NO Silver Spring skater had any expectation of being able to skate Veterans Plaza, and that after it opened, we only skated there because we were given express permission to do so by the Civic Building staff.

Initially, the only rule communicated to us, was to not skate the benches. But because no effort was made to get the word out widely, so that at least the majority of skaters would know the rules, news skaters were regularly showing up to skate and did not know the rules.

The rules changed on an almost daily basis, and again, no sign was posted informing us of these regularly changing rules, and nothing was posted on the web, and no effort was made to contact me, even though downtown officials are fully aware that I'm an adult skater who's deeply involved with this community, and I'm in touch with the vast majority of skateboarders in Silver Spring.

What's also missing from this conversation is the historical context in which all of this happened. There's a 20 year history of Silver Spring skaters pleading for a legal place to skate in a city that had none. In 2005, Silver Spring skater Lisa Jaeggi make a short film called No No Skateboarding.

We're still asking for that, and we're still dealing with the exact same issues covered in that video.

We do have a skatepark now. Actually, a "skate spot", as it's too tiny to be called a skatepark. It's the smallest skate spot in the entire DC area, where 7 people can skate safely at one time, and where we're starting to see rust already -- after less than one month of use.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 14, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

And by "community," JB, you of course mean the six or seven people who complain most loudly about something, not the 500 people who have no problem with a given activity.

Since you've also thrown the word "right" into the mix, it is improtant to point out that residence definitely do not have the right to ban whatever activity they want. It is the people who are participating in the public space that actually have rights.

by aaa on Aug 14, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

Sk8ter Mom, thanks--good context to have. I think skateboarding (like football and basketball) is a constructive activity in the right place, and it sounds like the skaters and the area would benefit from a better park--and better communication in the meantime.

aaa, so much that's so wrong in your post; where to begin. First, there's no way to know how many people have a problem. For every person who complains, there are surely 10 others who simply avoid the area because they don't want to be around Hare Krishnas or hippies with drums.

Second, your post implies that the only people "participating" in a public space are the ones who are drumming/proselytizing/skateboarding. I have news for you: Strolling, sitting, and other quiet activities are also participation--and they don't bother others.

Finally, no one said that residents (not "residence") have the right to ban "whatever activity they want." But communities DO in fact have the legal right to regulate public use of public amenities like parks. This has long been codified at all levels of government. Your right to bang on a drum with 50 other people stops when it infringes on the rights of the other 500 people who find that behavior to be an impediment to our happiness.

by JB on Aug 14, 2010 5:48 pm • linkreport

I was in the Veterans Park plaza a few weeks ago on a Saturday night watching the teenagers in the park. Some were skating, some were socializing, many were switching back and forth between the two activities. I was struck by how well behaved and quiet (for teenagers) everyone there was. It brought back such strong memories of my own teenage years hanging out with my friends in outdoor public spaces. When you can't drink or go to most clubs and you don't have much money, hanging out on the street is what you do for a social life.

It seems to me that many of those who want to ban skating really want to ban teenage socializing. Teenagers can be noisy, erratic, silly, sometimes push boundaries, and like to hang around in big groups without spending money. But that's who they are, always have been, always will be. You can't just ban and regulate them out of existence, just like you can't ban and regulate small children out of public spaces because they're not perfectly quiet tidy little citizens either.

A public space should be designed to accomodate ALL groups of people, and teenagers are an important group with just as much right as anyone to be there. If a city passes laws that essentially forbid teenagers from being themselves, it will face rebellion and rulebreaking - and it ought to!

by Erica on Aug 15, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

(Erica) It seems to me that many of those who want to ban skating really want to ban teenage socializing.

It might depend on how you define "many". But I think most people simply don't want very expensive damage to public amenities. If you could come up with some alternative activity that didn't do so much damage, I think it would be just fine. But part of the subversive appeal of skateboarding in public spaces, I think, is like graffiti---the knowledge that you are doing something that damages things that others care about.

by David desJardins on Aug 15, 2010 3:39 pm • linkreport

@Erica, I think you hit the nail on the head.

I don't know if you're aware of this, but the issue of teens in downtown Silver Spring has been a hot topic of conversation on neighborhood listserves for some time, and I believe that negative attitudes about teens being downtown plays a large role in the resistance to skateboarders.

Downtown Silver Spring had a riot in March of '09 -- over a hundred police officers were called from all over the county, and 75 arrests were made. It happened at a Stop The Violence concert, and even though it happened because the adults in charge made a lot of really dumb decisions, the fallout came on teens.

People talked about how to limit the number of teens downtown, and some members of the community even called for a teen curfew. Teens were involved in the fighting, but the fighting never would have happened if the adults who organized the concert had not made idiotic decisions. But no one talked about that, and virtually all of the conversation was about how to deal with the "teen problem" in DTSS.

People in Silver Spring love kids...when they're little. But as soon as they get old enough to leave the house without mommy, they suddenly become a threat, and their concerns, their voices, and their views are not taken seriously.

The leader of a local non-profit called Impact Silver Spring, was on the Redevelopment Committee, a group of community members who offered citizen input on the planning of downtown Silver Spring. I read the transcripts from a meeting where she said that issues related to youth were never discussed in any of their many meetings.

Many in Silver Spring still don't want to talk about what young people need downtown, and much of the language used when talking about teens is derisive and dismissive, and they're talked about as if they're not integral, valuable members of our community. And that's a damned shame.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 15, 2010 3:42 pm • linkreport

David desJardins said

"part of the subversive appeal of skateboarding in public spaces, I think, is like graffiti---the knowledge that you are doing something that damages things that others care about."

David, PLEASE tell me what you base that statement on. I have spent the better part of 2 years skating with teenage skateboarders and building relationships with them, and I haven't seen the first sign that any of them delight in destroying property.

If that were such a big appeal, I don't know why skaters all over the country are fighting for and begging for skateparks, where we don't destroy property.

It would be wonderful if people would stop throwing around stereotypes based on nothing more than misperceptions. And if your statement has any basis in fact, please tell me what that is.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 15, 2010 3:47 pm • linkreport

If the key distinction between "suburban" and "urban" is that the "suburban" policy is to prevent undesired behavior...

No, the key distinction between "suburban" and "urban" is that the "urban" policy is to accommodate the desires of lots and lots of different people within close quarters. I don't really appreciate someone screeching "you may only push baby karts unt shop here! you may NOT engage in any other activities not approved by zee community!"

I don't have a stroller (or a child) or a dog. I haven't played chess in years. I'm sorry that my lifestyle does not fall under your "desired" outdoor activities, but that's not really your decision to make, now is it? The difference between you and me is that even though I don't walk dogs or push around babies in strollers or play chess (much), I am perfectly ok with other people doing it.

If you don't want people having a drum circle in a public place or you can't stand street vendors, then I highly suggest you buy your own darn shopping plaza where you can restrict access and allow in only those who fall into the approved categories. But don't take out your frustrations at the fact that you don't have that kind of money to go complaining to public authorities to fulfill your desire to punish others who do stuff you don't do.

by Tyro on Aug 15, 2010 8:49 pm • linkreport

Dan -- RE: "But concerns about crime shouldn't prompt us to try and control how our public spaces are used."

I beg your pardon, but if crime in public spaces is not a reason to control their use, just what is? If criminal acts break out on Veterans Plaza, you would not do anything to stop them and reduce the chances that they would recur? Sorry, but that is not my idea of freedom.

And -- RE: "A good square is a democracy - it gives people a place to call their own, but hopefully gives them a conscience about how their actions affect others."

A lovely thought, but one that is full of serious questions. First of all, which people? Just those who don't mind risking injury by walking through the square? As Michael put it above: a busy gathering place isn't a great spot for sports that involve hurtling through the air with a big plank. So if skaters call this space their own, it leaves many non-skaters out of your concept of democracy.
Second, how hopeful should we be that the citizens of your "democracy" will develop a conscience about how their actions affect others? There has not been much sign of that development advancing very far up to now. The thrust of this article and the comments in support of it is all about the "others" in the plaza accommodating the skaters and not much about the skaters' concerns for the rest of the democracy you hope for in this public square.

Finally, as a former skate-boarder (a couple of decades removed), I completely agree with those who have asserted that Montgomery County (indeed, like most jurisdictions) has failed skaters. Skate parks in MoCo are inadequate in both number and size. But that failing does not mean that every new public space can become a de facto skate park. And unfortunately, that is what happens every time a new piece of public pavement opens in this county. That will simply guarantee more conflict and ultimately hurt the cause that skaters are trying to advance.

by From the Neighborhood on Aug 15, 2010 9:46 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry that my lifestyle does not fall under your "desired" outdoor activities, but that's not really your decision to make, now is it?

Sure, of course it's a community decision to make about which activities to accept and which don't fit in. If you want to do Monster Truck Racing on the plaza, it's not a sufficient response to say, "Live and let live." It's up to the community to decide what works for that community.

by David desJardins on Aug 15, 2010 9:52 pm • linkreport

@ From the Neighborhood

The problem is so much more than Montgomery County failing skaters -- you may have missed the part where I explained that up until we got Woodside (the tiniest skate spot in the DC area), Silver Spring skaters did not have a single legal skate spot in the entire city.

We do have one now. For the lucky 7 skaters who get to use it at any given point. The other 2,993 skaters in Silver Spring, continue to have nothing.

If you think there's no connection between the blatant and continued disregard the county has shown skaters, and the fact that skaters will skate most new pavement, you are very mistaken.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 16, 2010 1:08 am • linkreport

"No way would I want a bunch of hippies banging drums anywhere near where I live" -- JB

"I agree with you completely about the drums ... banging drums doesn't belong in a civilized society" -- Lance

"there are surely 10 others who simply avoid the area because they don't want to be around ... hippies with drums" -- JB

"For example, I remember being up by Meridian Hill Park one Sunday, and the most obnoxious drum noises were coming out or there ruining what should have been a beautiful day." -- Lance

This has to be a joke, right? JB is bent out of shape over "hippies" -- repeatedly. Lance thinks "banging drums doesn't belong in civilized society," and complains about a drum circle in Meridian Hill Park that's been going on for YEARS before his gentrifying ass moved into that neighborhood. "The most obnoxious drum noises"? Who writes like that? "Civilized society"? According to whom?

One night a week, some folks get together in a public space to make music and dance, and these clowns can't stand it. The other six days a week evidently aren't enough for them. Everyone has to conform to their sterile aesthetic 24/7, or else they "will not go to downtown Silver Spring for any reason." It's practically beyond parody.

The proper response to JB and Lance likely is: good riddance. Their absence **improves** the community. JB's deluded belief that he's part of some 10-to-1 silent majority -- he says: "Your right to bang on a drum with 50 other people stops when it infringes on the rights of the other 500 people who find that behavior to be an impediment to our happiness" -- of course is belied by the throngs of people in DTSS every night.

As an aside, any doubt I had about JB vanished as soon as he broke out the grammar police routine -- "residents (not 'residence')." Like I said, beyond parody. "Impediment to our happiness," indeed.

by JayTee on Aug 16, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

Wrong again, David-- the burden is on the detractors to explain why certain activities are so harmful that they must be restricted in a public place. It is not the role of community busybodies to only allow specific, "approved" outdoor activities in a public space. There are plenty of private, indoor malls available if you want controlled behavior where people only engage in approved behavior of the property owners. But public outdoor spaces belong to everyone, even if they choose to use those spaces for things that you, in your empty, boring life do not "approve" of (seriously, you're indignant about drum circles? Wjats wrong with you people? ). This is some of the dumbest stuff I've heard since they told photographers they couldn't take pictures around silver spring plaza.

by Tyro on Aug 16, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

citizens of squaresville

by bing!bing! on Aug 16, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

"On Sundays for more than 40 years, the Meridian Hill Park drum circle has been bringing people together from across the region."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/music-events/drum-circle,1128195/critic-review.html

by Tina Jones on Aug 16, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

"One of the main reasons I go out there is because I enjoy the tremendous mixture of classes of human beings," said Doc Powell, founder of the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, who was one of the first people to play in the circle in the '60s."

[Lance]The Horror. The Horror. [\JB]

by JayTee on Aug 16, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

Mr. Reed has done a terrible disservice to the community by his nagging on this subject and many of us are delighted to see him take a leave of absense on this issue. The community has risen and spoken. We do not want destructive youths in Veterans Plaza. The damage done will cost taxpayers thousands. The fights and stabbings that such a crowd risks bringing to Downtown Silver Spring would cost millions in lost sales taxes. Montgomery County is perhaps the most vibrant locality in America and its slow but careful decisions represent the best of democracy in America. The community has spoken and this issue should be laid to rest. No skaters in Silver Spring!

by Cyrus on Aug 16, 2010 2:20 pm • linkreport

Cyrus, you're the one who consistently does a disservice to Silver Spring, by making the community sound like a bunch of bigoted, narrow-minded, reactionary imbeciles.

Your hatred of skaters is evident. Unfortunately for you, skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America, and the number of skaters (in Silver Spring and beyond), is only going to continue to grow. And since there are no laws or ordinances against skateboarding in Montgomery County, there isn't a thing you can do about that.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 16, 2010 2:28 pm • linkreport

What kind of mature adult would ever call themselves "Sk8ter Mom"? Grow up. The community has spoken and skating is banned from Veterans Plaza. Period.

by Cyrus on Aug 16, 2010 3:18 pm • linkreport

I welcome this debate and Cyrus's and Sk8er Mom's points of view are both welcome (though I definitely disagree with Cyrus). However, please don't let the conversation stoop to attacking another's chosen handle on the blog or using terms like "grow up." The debate is about the ideas, not the people or what they call themselves when commenting online.

by David Alpert on Aug 16, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

Yes the community spoke -- and many in the community spoke up in support of skaters. It was Ike Leggett who banned us from Veterans, not you or anyone else in the community.

And that community you keep talking about (as if you speak for anyone else other than you), includes me and every skateboarder in Silver Spring. And we won't be going away.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 16, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

We do not want destructive youths in Veterans Plaza. The damage done will cost taxpayers thousands. The fights and stabbings that such a crowd risks bringing to Downtown Silver Spring would cost millions in lost sales taxes.

Fights and stabbings? WTF are you talking about? What are you smoking? Where on earth are you finding some kind of link between skateboarding and stabbing? Show me any study on a link between skating and violence, I guarantee it will show that having a sport to focus on decreases violence, not increases it.

My (basically straightedge) little brother skateboarded for years, had a gaggle of his friends hanging around the house - no one stabbed anyone, they were normal suburban kids.

Or is it because some of the Veterans Plaza skaters are (gasp!) AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGERS? In which case, I somehow don't think it's the skateboarding you're objecting to so much as their "undesirable" (to you) presence. Nuh-uh. A public space is for ALL the public.

by Erica on Aug 16, 2010 10:39 pm • linkreport

However, please don't let the conversation stoop to attacking another's chosen handle on the blog or using terms like "grow up."

I wonder if I'm the only one wondering if "Cyrus" is a sockpuppet trying to make "anti-skaters" look bad.

by David desJardins on Aug 16, 2010 10:42 pm • linkreport

The Plaza is doing fine as it is. I'm sure there are a load of rules to just walking down the street, but having not read them I still haven't run a foul of them. I suspect life on the Plaza will be much the same. If the skater kids didn't swarm the plaza and make it unsafe for toddlers to walk freely, I'm sure they'd be still allowed.

by Thayer-D on Aug 17, 2010 6:40 am • linkreport

Says you, Thayer-D. The last 4 times I passed Veterans Plaza in the past week, not a soul was there. Dead. Nothing going on. There were ALWAYS large crowds of people when we were skating there.

And you're wrong about us still being allowed there if we don't "swarm the plaza" -- maybe you didn't hear how skaters got skateboards confiscated by cops. For standing with their skateboards (not skating at all.) And this, immediately after coming out of a meeting in the Civic Building.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 17, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

how 'bout an old fashioned compromise like even days skaters, odds days no skaters? Sk8termom, would you accept that?

by Bianchi on Aug 17, 2010 11:27 am • linkreport

Philly went through a very similar thing about 8 years ago. LOVE Park (technically named JFK Plaza but everyone calls it LOVE Park because of the iconic "Love" sculpture and fountain) was built in the '60's in front of City Hall as a plaza next to City Hall, covering an underground parking garage. It was an entirely-granite thing with curving ramps.

For it's intended purpose, it was a failure. People never really took to it. But in a happy accident it turned out to be PERFECT for skaters. Skaters came from all over the world to skate there, and Philadelphia even won the right to host the X Games in 2001-2002 in part because of LOVE Park's reputation.

But, the Powers That Be felt that the skaters were chipping away at the granite too much, and that nonskaters were staying away. (Personally, I find the safety fears overblown - I've seen skaters take tumbles many times but have yet to ever see a skateboard go flying off in the air where it would endanger a bystander. In my opinion bystanders are at risk of, at most, some bruises - not much more risk than you get from any city plaza with or without skaters.)

So, in '03 or so the Mayor spent several hundred thou on "improvements" designed to soften up the park - but mostly to make it as skater unfriendly as possible. The result? The park is now dead except for tourists who stop to get photos in front of the LOVE statue, and homeless people.

I think the lesson for Silver Spring is, just because the skaters go away, doesn't mean other people will start coming in.

by Marc on Aug 17, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

@ Bianchi -- sounds great, but I've seen no indication that downtown officials are open to having us skate at Veterans at all. I agree with Erica that at bottom, this is an anti-teen thing -- they really don't want a lot of teens in downtown Silver Spring.

@ Marc -- amazing story, thanks for that.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 17, 2010 1:35 pm • linkreport

Don't be fooled by this aggressive woman who feels emboldened to attack any commenters that do not see things her way. Skaters are dangerous and are not positive members of the community.

http://www.gazette.net/stories/08112010/wheanew184905_32539.php

by Cyrus on Aug 17, 2010 6:54 pm • linkreport

Replace 'skaters' with 'black people', 'white people', 'jewish people', 'tall people', 'basketball players', 'swimmers', in Cyrus' comment, and it becomes clear how bigoted it is.

Cyrus I'm guessing you're an older, middle class man? If so, next time an older, middle class man does something like murders people, I'll be looking at you, wondering when you'll be doing the same thing.

The Gazette does not have the whole story, but I don't condone the response of the skater in that situation (and that skater is an adult.) HOWEVER, I have been blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, emailing, and saying in many community meetings, that the plans for Woodside Skate Spot were entirely too small, and that the size of the place was GOING to cause problems.

And when you have serious design problems like a too-small smooth surface used for one sport, running right into an also-smooth surface used for another sport, it's just idiocy asking for problems.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 17, 2010 7:01 pm • linkreport

>It seems to me that many of those who want to ban skating really want to ban teenage socializing.

Bingo. It seems that according to some the only acceptable socialization for teens is organized school sports. And if your teen isn't in to sports, well, if you're very very lucky they will spend all their time in your basement playing video games. If you're less lucky, they'll be down there getting high or pregnant.

It is bad - costly - for society to treat an entire generation that way. We can't just shut out teenagers and pretend they aren't there.

by BeyondDC on Aug 17, 2010 7:11 pm • linkreport

@ BeyondDC -- where's the like button when you need it?

Absofreakinglutely.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 17, 2010 7:16 pm • linkreport

I have been blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, emailing, and saying in many community meetings, that the plans for Woodside Skate Spot were entirely too small, and that the size of the place was GOING to cause problems.

The problem with this attitude is that it conveys a sense of entitlement. "Give us a larger skate spot or we'll break stuff and assault people with our skateboards." I'm sorry, but someone who would do such things has a predisposition to violence. You might say they are not representative of all skateboarders, but you can't blame the problem on the facilities rather than the people.

by David desJardins on Aug 17, 2010 7:17 pm • linkreport

David, there's something deeply dishonest and underhanded about trying to put those words, which have NOTHING to do with what I said, into my mouth.

Talk to me about what I did say, and we can have a conversation. Twist my words and make stuff up, and I got nothing to do with you.

by Sk8ter Mom on Aug 17, 2010 7:25 pm • linkreport

David, there's something deeply dishonest and underhanded about trying to put those words, which have NOTHING to do with what I said, into my mouth.

Anyone can read the discussion for themselves, so I don't think anyone is confused or unsure about what was said.

"Cyrus" posted a reference to an article referring to vandalism and assault by skaters at the park, apparently provoked by conflicts over space.

In response, you say, it was inevitable that the size of the park would cause problems.

It seems pretty obvious you are suggesting that the size of the park is a contributing factor to the problems described in the article. That's really not what you meant? What problems are you talking about, then?

by David desJardins on Aug 17, 2010 7:36 pm • linkreport

If a group of minorities were beating up local park patrons, Sk8ter Mom would not even comment but yet she finds it acceptable to call other commenters nasty racist names when they cite a local newspaper article detailing the activities of the skating community. This vicious attack tactic is unwelcome in our vibrant community that has spoken against a group of vandals destroying a brand new public facility.

by Cyrus on Aug 17, 2010 7:38 pm • linkreport

P.S. On rereading, are you saying that when I wrote, "Give us a larger skate spot or we'll break stuff and assault people with our skateboards," I was attributing such views to you? No, that wasn't what I intended at all. This was my description of the attitude of the skating community, not of any person.

Compared to a real discussion forum, this comments section isn't a very practical place to carry on a dialogue, and maybe I should stop trying to do so.

by David desJardins on Aug 17, 2010 7:40 pm • linkreport

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