Andy Kessler, a famous skateboarder, was adopted and raised on the Upper West Side. Born in 1961, Kessler was part of an early generation of skateboarders, and part of a group known as the Soul Artists of Zoo York, which formed in the 1970s. Soul Artists was comprised of skaters and graffiti artists that left a legacy that can be felt to this day.
Kessler was one of the most prominent riders in New York and was well known for helping to create spaces in parks for skaters.
As the New York Times reported, “Mr. Kessler long nurtured an ambition to build a park for skateboarders and roller-bladers, and in the 1990s, he proposed the idea of building one in Riverside Park, near where he grew up. The New York City parks department accepted the idea, and Mr. Kessler recruited a group of disadvantaged youths to build it. He later built more parks on Long Island and elsewhere.”
In Kessler’s own words in an interview posted on YouTube, he described what skating through the City was like.
“Rolling through the streets in New York City… man it’s just, you never know what you’re going to come up against. It’s just always different. I mean yeah in some ways it can be the same, you’re going down the same street, but you’re going down the same streets and different cars are coming up, or going down. Somebody might jump out right in front of you crossing the street, it’s just always a different experience every single time, and I think that’s what just makes it so much fun.”
Kessler’s legacy lives on well after his untimely death in 2009, when he was stung by an insect and died from an allergic reaction.
At the Community Board 7 meeting on Tuesday night, a group of people showed up to support a resolution to rename the renovated skate park in Riverside Park at 108th Street to honor Andy Kessler.
A board member described Kessler as a “pioneer and leader in the skateboard community, nationally, and here on the Upper West Side.”
She also noted the rules that must be met in order to have a name change in place. The criteria include that a person be deceased for at least three years, there must be a connection to the community and park, contributions must have been made to that park by said person, and there must be community support for the name change.
The first speaker gave a bit of background about Kessler including that he had lobbied for and designed New York City’s first skate park, and many other skate parks after that, including the one in Riverside Park. He used a quote from the famous skateboarder Steve Olson. “Andy Kessler was a pioneer. His contributions came right from his heart, with a love of skateboarding and for the city of New York, that continued until the day he died.”
A representative from Tony Hawk’s foundation was in attendance. While holding back tears, he said how emotional this experience was for him, and thanked the board and elected officials for seeing this naming through.
Jamie, who has been a skateboarder for 50 years, has known Andy Kessler since 1977, when he was 12 years old. Jamie said, “I think it’s a great justice for us, and for his people that are here. It’s a really good thing, and it’s not so hard for you guys to put it through. It’s a great honor for us to see this because of what he did for all of us. So if it’s possible. Let’s do it. Okay, thank you so much.”
The resolution was passed and met with cheers.Get the UWS newsletter: