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Decision to demolish skate park angers skater community

July 16, 2018

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Skateboarders stood amid debris under a railroad overpass at Washington and Plymouth streets on Sunday and mourned the makeshift skate park demolished without warning by the city two days before.

“This is depressing, dude,” said Raymond “Radio Ray” Nydam, 47, of Worcester.

“I was here last night, just sitting here, drinking a beer, looking at the ‘RIP’ in the middle made out of stone,” Mr. Nydam said.

“I’m celebrating the funeral of this place here. I’m in mourning.”

Adam Kacprzicki, 33, of Rutland agreed: “We all are in a state of mourning.”

The city on Friday tore down the Worcide DIY Skate Park, located next to a homeless encampment under two railroad bridges at the end of Washington Street.

The city’s commissioner of inspectional services, John R. Kelly, called the skate park “a disaster waiting to happen,” and said the decision to take it apart was jointly reached by his department along with the Fire and Police departments.

Deputy Fire Chief Martin Dyer said firefighters responding to a trash fire Tuesday afternoon at the skate park found an “immediate threat to public safety” presented by “an enormous amount of combustible material” there.

“There was anywhere from 50 to 75 tires, furniture and an incredible amount of solid waste under the bridge,” Deputy Chief Dyer said.

On Sunday, the curved wooden skateboard ramp lay upended against a graffiti-painted concrete wall at back. Tires were strewn atop bits of clothing and personal items left by homeless who sleep there. The area was not fenced off.

“Doing this isn’t going to solve any issue,” said Mr. Kacprzicki. “There isn’t even a fence up. People are going to be sleeping here tonight.”

He continued: “They said they destroyed this because of the safety and fire hazard. They left all the combustible material (and) exposed rebar. They’ve made this more dangerous than it was before, with no way of blocking it off to the public. They’ve made this way more dangerous than it was when it was a skate park.”

“Way, way,” Mr. Nydam said, in agreement.

Mr. Kacprzicki, a Subaru mechanic and former pizza delivery man, and Paul Adams, 29, of Worcester, a welder, both were regulars at the skate park. They visited the site Sunday before calling on business owners in the Green Street neighborhood. They plan to meet with city officials, as well, to make the case for replacing the park.

Mr. Adams said: “The city knew we were here for 10 years. They could have given us some warning. There was no effort to solve this problem. Instead (they) came here (and said), ‘Oh, by the way, your skate park’s gone.’”

The skateboarders said the city may have moved ahead on demolition because of the homeless encampment. They said during the summer when they were skating they would try to divert homeless people away from the site.

“We can’t be out here all the time,” said Mr. Adams. “We don’t have the power to kick people who have nothing to lose out of here. We can’t make somebody leave this place.” The site is “now useless,” he said, “even more dangerous than it was before now.”

Mr. Nydam said he had been coming to the skate park for years, “kicking everybody out at night time.” He described himself as the park’s bouncer. “He’s our unofficial police force,” said Mr. Adams.

Said Mr. Nydam: “I would come down night and day — trying to keep the junkies out of here, so the kids had a safe place to go. The kids were what it was all about to me — the community.”

He said he was homeless himself, living in a Jeep with his dog, when he was told about this place under the bridge as a good place to keep his dog cool during the day. “I started coming down here,” he said.

“After the junkies started coming in, I started kicking them out,” Mr. Nydam said. “It wasn’t right to see these little kids from down Crompton Park and stuff coming up here, and there’s people back there shooting up, and needles half filled with dope, and people smoking crack.

“I (said), ’If you guys want to smoke weed, go ahead; you want to drink a beer go ahead. No need to be down there smoking dope and shooting crack in front of kids!”

Mr. Nydam said: “It’s not like the cops can say they didn’t know what was going on down here. I called them millions of times after five or six people at nighttime came after me with weapons. I told them I’m down here trying to clean the place up for the kids and this and that, and they’re coming at me with weapons.

“Cops don’t show up, I call them back, and they still don’t show up. I say, ‘Well fine, I guess I’m coming down with my nail gun.’ And I did, because I had to have some kind of protection, just to keep them away from me. When you’ve got four or five people with sticks, bars and a knife, you gotta have something for one guy.

“I did my best until this winter,” Mr. Nydam said, surveying the site where the skate park used to be. He had got injured and wasn’t able to keep up his rounds, and the park got overrun, he said. “I kind of blame myself. If I wasn’t hurt this wouldn’t have happened.”

The spirit of the skate park remains, he said. “Skateboarders were down here skating that wooden ramp up against the wall on Friday,” he said. “Worcide still lives.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2zLUY5u

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Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com

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