Week Without Walls at East Side
Words by Alex Bruno On Tuesday May 17th, East Side Community High School closed its doors. Not permanently, but rather for an extended vacation so students could learn outside of the classroom. At East Side, we call this Week Without Walls. WWW is when students and teachers come together over a shared passion. East Side students went as far as Belize to bond over common ground but our itinerary did not involve planes, white sand beaches or snorkel gear. Myself and fourteen students embarked on a journey of skateboarding exploration throughout New York City.
Our journey began as we got off the bus in Chinatown. We made our way towards LES Skatepark, which resides under the Manhattan Bridge. For me, this experience was a mix of irony and nostalgia as I have been coming to this skatepark for the past eight years with close friends since I was around my students age. Although the park has changed drastically over the years, it still remains a hub for New York skateboarding at any time of the day. My Year 2 students would use this day to film for their brand’s promo, which debuted at the End of Year Brand Showcase. Besides a couple minor spills, we enjoyed a day of Lower East Side skateboarding and the tastiest two dollar dumplings money could buy.
The second day could not have been any more different from the first. I met the students at East Side in the morning to warm up and stretch before heading to the L train we would take over to west side of Manhattan. We proceeded to Tribeca Skatepark, an empty but narrow gem overlooking the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan. As the Freedom Tower beamed in the distance, we took full advantage of the empty park until the heat would usher our first break of the day. As we skated towards the pier and enjoyed the view and breeze, we would be greeted by what would become a common thread throughout the day: security. Ironically enough, skateboarding isn’t as well liked in Tribeca as it is in the Lower East Side so we would eventually end our day with a non-skateboarding related activity. We visited the September 11th Memorial Pools on our way back to the train. As the students stared into the depths of the black marble abyss, I sat and reflected on the magnitude of where we were standing and how many of them had never seen this memorial or even were alive when it happened.
On our third day, we would travel across the river to Brooklyn to visit Cooper Park. Cooper is a relatively new skatepark that opened up this past Fall by the Graham Avenue L train stop. The skatepark is truly woven into the actual park itself so the students would weave around trees to skate the many ledges, rails and hips. After sessioning Cooper, we would continue throughout Williamsburg, exploring different streets and avenues and coming to the conclusion that no one has better dollar slice pizza than the East Village. We would end our day skating at a spot called “The Monument”. Residing at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge, this spot has draws skateboarders for its low ledges and plaza-like feel. The students decided to put on their own contest down the three stair, ending the day on a fun and competitive note.
Our final day would serve as the biggest challenge, metaphorically and literally. Chelsea Skatepark on the west side of Manhattan is famous for its steep transition and deep pools but nonetheless, the students were down for the challenge. We started in the shallow end of the bowl, working on pumping through transition and using your weight to go through the bowl without pushing. James, who is pictured below, really got the hang of it and started working his way up to the tile. Once the bowl session came to a close, the students explored the park, blasting up gaps and cruising down wallrides. A small group of students at the beginning of Week Without Walls expressed their lack of skateboarding experience. By the time we finished up at Chelsea, they were coasting down five foot banks like it was nothing. Throughout the trip, this particular group of students were very vocal about their newfound love of skateboarding, telling me they enjoyed the sense of brotherhood and freedom skateboarding brings. Hearing that from a group of students that have been skateboarding for a couple of days just affirmed why this trip happened and why so many people step on their skateboard every single day.