Proposed Miami Skate Park Pits Skaters Against Preservationists | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Proposed Miami Skate Park Pits Skaters Against Preservationists

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"A skate park doesn't belong next to a historic cemetery," says Penny Lambeth, a Miami Lakes-based publicist and preservationist who has helped restore the burial grounds over the past two decades. "It is the final resting place for Miami's first everything, from the first mayor to the first black lawyer."

The opposition has bummed out Levy and his friends, who just want a place to skate where they won't be kicked out for doing an ollie off a building's front steps or arrested for vandalism for grinding on a bus bench. It's been especially frustrating for Levy, an enterprising young man who was involved in the development of 13 skate parks, including two in Israel, before he moved to Miami in 2006. "The park's opponents are pulling every political string to stop it," Levy grouses. "This has been a bigger hassle than I expected it to be."

To find out if the complaints against the skate park's location are valid, New Times tagged along with Levy, Stack, and Hurtado to Bethune Point, then Lawnwood Skate Park in Fort Pierce, and finally an empty swimming pool in Pompano Beach. Along the journey, we tracked the evolution of South Florida's skateboarding subculture and learned why a skate park tucked between a historic cemetery and Jewish temple wouldn't hurt anyone.

Levy sits yoga-style on his skateboard while taking a break from his Bethune Point run. He has swapped his helmet for a black mesh baseball cap that squishes his floppy, curly locks. "When I got to Miami, I was surprised that there were no real skate parks like this one here in Daytona," he says. "It sucks that we have to travel more than 200 miles to find one. Miami-Dade County has built three parks that are just awful and falling apart. The only skate parks that can last for a long time are prefab concrete skate parks."

An upbeat Washington, D.C., Jewish kid with undergraduate degrees in entrepreneurship and religion, Levy stepped on his first board when he was 3 years old. "I would push around on it," he recalls, "and I was never able to stop after that." His skateboarding idols include Steve Caballero, an original member of skateboard company Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade; and Omar Hassan, one of the world's best bowl skaters and a regular X Games contestant.

Levy and his friends would ride their boards and public transit 20 miles to a popular skate park in Woodbridge, Virginia. When he was 13, the town closed the park, prompting skaters in the nation's capital to push local officials to build them a new public spot for miniramps, half-pipes, bowls, and street courses. "I helped on every aspect of the project, from fundraising to working with the local government," Levy recalls. "I learned how to find the best possible sites for a skate park, which are usually in urban, dense neighborhoods. And I learned how to deal with politics and the not-in-my-backyard crowd."

By the time he graduated from D.C.'s Winston Churchill High School in 2006, Levy was involved in establishing free public skate parks in Arlington and Baltimore. He spent the summer in Israel, where he volunteered his input on skate park developments in Tel Aviv and Zichron Ya'akov, a town founded in 1982 by 100 Jewish Romanians. Levy notes that his idol Hassan attended the grand opening of the Zichron Ya'akov skate park, which is coincidentally next to a synagogue. "I was so stoked," Levy recollects. "Here we had opened a skate park that welcomed everybody — Jews and Muslims included — in one of the most messed-up places in the world."

In fall 2006, Levy arrived in Coral Gables to attend the University of Miami. "With the great weather, I figured Miami was the perfect place for a skater to go to college," he says. "I was surprised to find out that this big metropolitan city didn't have a free skate park like the ones I skated back home."

One day during his sophomore year in 2007, he knocked on the office door of Lansing McLoskey, a 46-year-old music professor and pool skater, and asked him to be the skateboard club's faculty adviser. "From the moment I met him, I could see his ambition and his organizational skills," McLoskey says of Levy. "He is evangelical about skateboarding. He talked about building a ramp on campus and selling skateboard decks with the university's logo in the bookstores, which he ended up doing."

A year later, McLoskey learned via his neighbor, a Miami Park and Recreation employee, that the Omni CRA had allocated $1 million toward a $2.2 million plan to redevelop Biscayne Park, where today soccer aficionados play pickup games on the weekend. The plan features a 16,000- to 24,000-square-foot skate park that would use about $700,000 of the total budget. The balance would bankroll new bathrooms, a park administration office, landscaping, fencing, parking, and lighting.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.

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