Bayonne Bridge? Stray a Few Blocks North

Last February, after a long overdue visit to my Grandmother in Southern New Jersey, I drove North, over to Bayonne, NJ, to meet a couple friends at an indoor skatepark known as “The Bridge”. A 5,000 square foot park built out of concrete and wooden ramps, the “Bridge” serves dozens of skaters and bikers a day, alongside graffitied walls and stickered doors. Since its opening in 2011, the bridge, whose owner lives in the back room of the skatepark, is open 7 days out of the week, allowing anyone through its doors for only $12 a session. With street-like set-ups within the park, the Bridge is not only designed for park riders, but street riders as well, which as we can all agree, requires more creativity and a tech style.

 

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Up and coming NYC street rider, Martin Ochoa, best known for tech skills, tries to get out there every Tuesday and Thursday, as the park is open to bikers on these days. Company riders and crews, such as the Animal Bikes crew, heads out to Bayonne’s finest indoor park when they can, especially during the brutal winters that often create silence within the sport. Magazines such as Dig often shoot riders there, as they did earlier in December with the Animal crew.

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Though a tough ride from the city if car-less, the Bridge is definitely worth a stop at, at least for Instagram jibs.

 

More Than Just A “Chill” Spot

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To the average passerby, 110th street and Lenox avenue might look like any ordinary NYC street corner, composed of concrete ledges and deceased foliage. However, within this corner exists a family of BMX riders and skaters, who all come together as one to pursue their passions. “Lenox”, as the locals call this spot, has been home to many of these BMX riders and skaters for years, using the ledges as a learning tool for beginner tricks and even hard tricks. Lenox, when the weather permits, is usually packed with kids, each waiting for their turn to shred. More often than not, skate companies (such as After Midnight and Zoo York) as well as BMX companies (such as 718 and Animal) come to Lenox to film sponsored riders. Lenox ledges are known across the NYC area as a hotspot for skaters and riders.

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What most people don’t know, is that there exists a family within the larger group of skaters and bmxers, on this street corner across from Central Park. The locals, or those riders/skaters that pass by almost every day, have constructed a brotherhood, in which the bond between them is unbreakable. I’m lucky enough to know these unique individuals personally, and lucky enough to call them my best friends. Each extremely talented at their sport of choice, these Harlem goons live a lifestyle like no other, mirroring this subculture of the NYC area.

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While other skate spots do exist in the city, such as LES, Riverside Park, Mullaly’s skatepark in the BX, and many others, no other spot holds such a significant place in my heart, nor in any of the other locals, as “Lenox” acts as a home away from home, in which my second family lives.

 

 

“Some S!@%!”

Last night, at the 24 hours FedEx Kinko’s on 72nd street, one could find Ray Martinez slaving over the copier until 1 a.m. He was making double sided copies of black and white pictures (some of which I have taken, some of which he has taken) of Harlem “fools” as Ray might call all our bmx/skateboarding friends. In the subculture of “zines”, (which Urban Dictionary would define as “a cheaply-made, cheaply-priced publication, often in black and white, which is mass-produced via photocopier and bound with staples.”) Ray is an expert. He has worked in 8 Ball Zine Shop (aka the Newsstand), a small little pop-up shop in a subway station in Brooklyn, right off the G train, and has of more recently, traveled to L.A. to attend the zine book fair, which allowed him to meet new people with similar interests and build connections out in the West Coast.

Zines were introduced as a punk subculture in the 1970s, when self-publishing was the new interest at hand. Zines typically helped promote punk bands and the music scene they were born out of. In 1975, the first zine by the name of “Punk” was published by Legs McNeil. “Punk” covered the music and art scene of 1970s New York.

Through the mid 1980s-late ’90s, Mike Gunderloy formed a network of zine publishers under the publication Factsheet Five, giving the underrated culture of zines the coverage they deserved. While zines are still a very underground phenomenon, they are no antiques, and are constantly being published by starving artists and even well known names. Leo Fitzpatrick, the actor who plays Telly in Larry Clark’s 1995 “Kids”, has published zines that have actually been sold and published in 8 Ball Zine Shop. While this subculture is not obvious to the public, it does still exist, because at the end of the day, anyone can be a self-published zine-maker.

“Some S!@%”, Ray and I’s most recent collaboration, features our experiences in Harlem so far, as told through portraits of our “homeboys”, and desolate shots of deli fronts and NYC public housing.

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Exposing both the ugly and the beauty of Harlem living, “Some S!@%” serves as an outlet of urban culture, in allowing not only our viewers, but ourselves, an understanding of New York City’s once most notorious area.

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If you want to see more, check out Ray’s site: raymartinez.bigcartel.com

Why Blog?

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The culture of NYC cannot be summed up by what is displayed on the surface, and is not visible to the average commuter. The streets of NYC, primarily Harlem, allow for a diverse culture-infused experience, in where authentic aspects of old school NYC living are preserved, as opposed to the vastly different, fast paced, tourist attraction we call downtown Manhattan. Within this authenticity that is so rare to find in most neighborhoods of the greatest city on Earth, there lives this sub-culture, that continues to lose its negative connotation with each passing moment. BMX/Skateboarding and Rap/Hip-Hop represents a huge part, yet not all, of this sub-culture within the Urban culture of NYC. In order to understand the streets of NYC, one must be aware of these outlets of artistry and how the youth utilizes both the rap culture and action sport culture in building authenticity within themselves. It is imperative to understand these faucets of this sub-culture (that continues to stray away from past negative connotations), as everyone should be street smart in some sense, even tourists; blogging allows this imperative awareness in understanding not only the youth of NYC, but why and how NYC possesses the culture it does.

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