Skater Culture Thrives in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie

With the new skate park opening in Newburgh’s Delano-Hitch Park and the reopening in April of Victor C. Waryas Park’s skate park in Poughkeepsie, avid area skateboarders now have a safe place to practice their sport – proof that cities in the Hudson Valley are recognizing the importance of skateboarding in building community.

The fight to get a skate park up and running in Newburgh took eight years. A group of young residents met with the city council to secure a safe place in the community to skate, and their dream finally became a reality a month ago. Erica Enriquez, a college student who is based in Newburgh, believes the reason it took so long for the skate park to get built was because of the misperception many people have of skateboarders. “Kids who are seen as delinquents or the outcasts in school appear to be attracted to skating,” she said. But it’s not that simple, she explains: “There’s a countercultural movement that people don’t care about.”

Persistence led the city council to eventually care about the culture and community that has been formed through youth skating together. “[The city council] had no choice but to recognize us,” said Marco Colon, a skater who works in the area. “When you see twenty or thirty kids come to meetings, you have to take them seriously.”

A similar movement gained ground in Poughkeepsie last year. A Facebook group called Save the Poughkeepsie Skate Park was formed to raise money to revive the skate park in Waryas Park after it was shut down by the Department of Public Works because of safety concerns. The result was the reopening of the skate park last April. Mary Lankard, a resident of Lagrange who no longer skates but frequents the park with her boyfriend, described the benefits of having a skate park in the community.

“Through the Facebook group, we were getting more people to realize that this is a good alternative,” she said. “It’s a good place to productively put out any emotions you may have.” Her boyfriend, Hyde Park resident Dakota Anderson, agrees. He grew up in Newburgh and found skateboarding to be a great outlet for escaping inner-city strife. “Having a skate park here keeps the younger generation off the streets and helps them channel their energy into something positive,” he said.

Positive and long-lasting relationships are also formed through skating. Diverse groups come together to express their creativity and physicality. “There are many types of people who come here,” said Lankard. “You have the punk rock kids and the rap kids, and it’s all good vibes. You get a different sense of community when you come here.” Poughkeepsie resident Kuntry Paiz added that the skate park is a “judgment-free zone.”

For Enriquez, the Newburgh skate park has been a great opportunity for her to showcase her artistic talents. The Rhode Island School of Design student built a special ramp that was installed in the skate park after its grand opening to symbolize both the creativity in skating and the need for representation of female skaters in the community. Fellow Newburgh resident Brittany Moore calls skateboarding an art in itself. “I think of skateboarding as an art that expresses freedom,” she said.

Skateboarding is also a great form of physical fitness for youth, according to Lankard. “You get your physical education here,” she said.

Since the opening and reopening of the Newburgh and Poughkeepsie skate parks, people have come far and wide to visit. Lankard mentioned once meeting visitors from New York City at Waryas Park, and Enriquez has met people who hail from Albany at the Newburgh skate park. “Everyone has a place to skate now,” said Moore. “We have a great, humble community.”