Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz stopped by the Sub Zero skate shop Oct. 3 to pledge his support to Philadelphia’s young skateboarders in their quest return to Love Park.
“Well, I’m back to do some shopping,” Katz announced. While there, he looked over various skateboards and talked with Sub Zero’s manager A.J. Mazzu about the sport.
“What is it about this particular sport that makes it so off the charts?” Katz asked while admiring a tattoo of the famous “Love” sign on a patron’s leg. Though not a skater himself, Katz said if elected for mayor he would like to learn before his first term in office ends.
Katz said Philadelphia has a wonderful youth culture. He wants to send a message to the city that they must capture the attention of college students to encourage them to stay in Philadelphia.
“Closing the park was shortsighted,” Katz told Sub Zero patrons. “We want to be hip and open, and the perception that this issue can’t be negotiated is wrong.”
Sub Zero, a small shop on Fifth Street, near South Street, fully supports the effort to reopen Love Park to skateboarders. “Free Love Park” was printed on flyers and T-shirts and an old newspaper photo of a large group of skateboarders at the park hangs behind the counter. They handed out brochures and free shirts in support of Katz, as well as voter registration forms to get a younger demographic involved in his campaign.
Brendan Walsh, a junior Film major at Temple, is currently creating a documentary about the two mayoral candidates and what they are doing about skateboarding in Philadelphia.
“I like [Katz] better than [Mayor] Street. He’s doing his best to connect with the community and making an effort,” Walsh said. “Skaters are persecuted, run down, tackled, searched and arrested here and it’s not really fair.”
Skateboarders have had a love-hate relationship with Philadelphia. In 2001, skateboarders were kicked out of Love Park for ruining city property with their boards and being an annoyance to visitors to the park.
The benches and other surfaces in the park were rearranged to make the area less suitable for skateboarders trying to perform tricks. Police presence was also stepped up. Ironically, ESPN chose to host the X-Games here, despite the city’s treatment of its own skaters.
The movement has since found support in a few city officials who have helped skateboarders raise about $30,000, as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News. It was these supporters of the youth activity that held a rally at City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza last Sunday. Skateboarders gathered to hear the news that they were extremely close to a compromise that would allow them back into Love Park.
Temple students in search of a place to skateboard in peace have found themselves out of luck lately. Junior Phil Rached has felt the pinch of the city’s restrictions on skateboarding at Love Park.
“We have to do it at night after 11 p.m. usually, and if the cops show up you just gotta run really fast,” Rached said. They have an equally difficult time finding a place to skate on campus. They often try to skate at an area on the northeast corner of Cecil B. Moore and Broad streets but are forced to leave by Temple police.
While skateboarders are trying to compromise with city officials to allow them to skate in Love Park again, Katz has greater ambition. He wants to turn City Hall into a “public space building” and open the visitor center at Love Park to exhibitions and retail.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.