Manhattan Bridge Skatepark Design

Located in the New York City’s Lower East Side, the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark, aka L.E.S. Skatepark, was a neglected public space beneath the towering Manhattan Bridge, considered a space only attractive for skateboarders to use. Because of its location and the recent closing of the popular skate spot the Brooklyn Banks, it has become one of the most heavily trafficked skateparks in the five boroughs.

In Summer 2012, the skatepark received a major facelift. Thanks to a NIKE GAMECHANGERS grant, community skate advocate Steve Rodriguez (5boro Skateboards) worked with design collaborator and builder California Skateparks, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, Architecture for Humanity, stakeholders and community members on the redesign that has revamped and literally reramped the existing facility. New dog runs and community areas, designed by Abel Bainnson Butz, LLP Landscape Architects and Site Planners, will further enhance the public space.

With a GAMECHANGERS grant, the project team rebuilt the park from the ground up that includes:

  • A new concrete slab
  • Existing obstacles relocated to and reused at nearby skatepark
  • New, simple, safe, and innovative obstacles for participants of all ages and skill levels
  • Integrated multi-functional elements (ie skate-able furniture) that invite + encourage passive
    participation of non-skaters/ visitors to the park
  • Enterprise opportunity for local vendors + community partners

Design Team – Skatepark

Design Lead: Steve Rodriguez, founder of 5boro Skateboards

Design Collaborator and Builder: CA Skateparks

Community Partner and Skatepark Design Lead Steve Rodriguez is the founder of 5boro Skateboards. With 5boro as his vehicle, Steve is an advocate for all New York skaters by volunteering his time and expertise to help city officials plan and execute a variety of skateboarding-related projects. In 2004, he partnered with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the New York City Department of Transportation to help save NYC’s legendary skate spot, the Brooklyn Banks. Building on the success of the Brooklyn Banks, the Parks Department and DOT now frequently call upon Steve to consult on additional skateboarding projects. Recent projects include the Astoria Skate Plaza beneath the Triborough Bridge, and the River Avenue Skatepark across from the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The Astoria skatepark is New York City’s first-ever “skate plaza” – a manufactured spot that promotes skateboarding in its purest form by maintaining the integrity of terrain commonly found in urban environments (stairs, ledges, benches, etc.). Steve is also on the board of the Harold Hunter Foundation.

Design Team – Community Areas

Design Lead: abb (Abel Bainnson Butz, LLP) Landscape Architects and Site Planners

Design Collaborators: Jens Holm and Kay D. Vorderwuelbecke

Architecture for Humanity selected a winner of the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark Invitation to Develop a Master Plan. Congratulations to Jens Holm of Holm Design Office.

Background and Location

The Manhattan Bridge Skatepark is located in Coleman Oval Park on the border between Manhattan’s Chinatown and Lower East Side, bounded by Market, Pike, Cherry, and Monroe Streets, and is one block west of the FDR parkway and the East River. Recreational amenities of Coleman Oval Park include: a playground, baseball diamond, basketball court, handball court, dog run, and a skatepark. The skatepark is located in the portion of Coleman Oval Park located directly underneath the Manhattan Bridge.

Coleman Oval Park is located in Manhattan Community District 3 (Lower East Side, East Village, parts of Chinatown). The boundaries of the district are 14th Street on the north, the East River on the east and the south, and Fourth Avenue and the Bowery on the west, extending to Baxter and Pearl Streets and the Brooklyn Bridge south of Canal Street.

Manhattan Community District 3 is a diverse community with many cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds represented and a significant youth population. The population stands at 172,000 people +, 17% of which are under the age of 18. In terms of race and ethnicity, 35% of the population categorizes themselves as Asian/Pacific Islander, 28% White/Non Hispanic, and 27% Hispanic, and 7% as African American. More than a quarter of Community District 3’s population, 43,000 people, require income assistance and this statistic is 83% higher than the mean of other Manhattan community districts.

Coleman Oval Park provides a much needed place for recreation in a community with little green or open space. Manhattan Community District 3 does not meet the New York City Planning Commission’s guidelines for per capita green space. Access to quality green space and recreational facilities is especially important for this community, as 26.2%-35.4% of residents reported their health as fair or poor on a self reported health history in 2008.

Programming Opportunities

The Manhattan Bridge/LES Skatepark is the location of choice within the five boroughs for New York City’s special skateboarding events, from annual events like Harold Hunter Day and Manny Mania to huge mega events like “Go Skateboarding Day” on June 21st. Future programming potential includes skate clinics and a mentoring program, as well art and design initiatives with youth to help animate the space. Potential programming partners include local community groups as well as the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and local schools. There also exists a great opportunity to broaden the inclusion of women and girls in the sport through potential partnerships with local community groups. Outreach should also be done to outlying neighborhoods due to the fact that skaters using the skatepark come from all five boroughs as well as the immediate neighborhood. Creating a more integrated public space may also lead to increased usership by non skaters, also increasing potential programming opportunities.

Active Design Guidelines/High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC
There is an opportunity to link this project to the City’s larger agenda regarding health, fitness, active design and the development of parks and open space. For example, the Active Design Guidelines were developed in a partnership between New York City agencies such as the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Design and Construction, City Planning and Transportation in order to provide architects and urban designers with urban design and building strategies that encourage physical activity. Skateboarding is an active form of travel and the redesign and reconstruction of the skatepark has the potential to utilize several of the Active Design Guidelines, such as designing a recreational facility to complement the cultural preferences of the local population and accommodate a range of age groups. Also, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation developed the High Performance Landscape Guidelines to ensure the design and construction of sustainable parks and open space. Several of the guidelines relate strongly to this project including: Design Parks that encourage active recreation and improve the health and well being of residents and encourage the public in consultative design process so that their knowledge of the site and recreational preferences are incorporated into the design.

Active Design Guidelines:

High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC:


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