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The trick for skateboarders at Nashua St. Park: dodging police

Posted by Roy Greene  November 17, 2010 12:09 PM

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Wedged between work-bound commuters, Will Burstein sits patiently on a train from his home in Winchester to downtown Boston. It's a 40-minute ride he has repeated as many as four times a week for years.

Erin Chack for
The infamous skate spot known as "Eggs."
But unlike his fellow passengers, Burstein isn’t holding a briefcase. Instead, the 22-year-old carries a skateboard and the faint expectation that on his return journey home, he may also be carrying a police citation.

Burstein is heading to the Nashua Street Park, a popular but illegal skate spot near North Station. Skateboarders from all over the Boston area congregate on Nashua Street to skate the smooth concrete ledges, sets of stairs, and oval-shaped dividers that give this infamous skate spot the nickname "Eggs," but they do so at great risk.

Boston Police routinely patrol the park, skateboarders say, handing out tickets, confiscating boards, and chasing away skaters. Without a legal local alternative—like a skate park or designated skating area—skaters like Burstein feel they have no other option but to endure this habitual cat-and-mouse game on Nashua Street.

"I have nothing against the police or authority," said Burstein, who studies mathematics at UMass Lowell. "But we are the people who use the Nashua Street Park the most, and we use it creatively. We’re all nice people; we just have nowhere else to go."

Although Burstein's hometown of Winchester has a skate park, many consider such parks to be inadequate for true progression in the sport, and say they can't compare to the sort of raw skating done at Nashua Street, even if illegal street skating comes at a price.

Burstein says he’ll never forget receiving his first ticket at the park.

"It was a citation for $25," he said of the incident, "and I wasn’t even skating" at the time -- Burstein had gone to watch friends skate.

Fines are only the beginning, some of the skateboarders said.

Matthew Ambrogi, 15, said he had his skateboard confiscated by a state trooper after the officer expelled him from the park.

"He was insisting that skateboarders do all the graffiti [at Eggs] and when I asked why he assumed that he told me I asked him a stupid question and responded by taking my skateboard," said Ambrogi, who lives in Rockport.

Those who do run at the first sight of red and blue lights risk being doubly penalized.

"Running from the cops is illegal," said Burstein, "but it’s hard not to react on instinct when you hear the siren."

The Boston Police Department declined several requests for comment on the skateboarders’ complaints or to say how many tickets it has issued in the Nashua Street Park.

Despite the risks, the allure of park is irresistible to many who skate there. The marble paving offers a smooth ride, allowing skaters to keep a constant speed to set up for tricks.

In a city beset by cracked, rough asphalt, skating there is paradise by comparison. Not to mention the picturesque view of the sparkling Charles River overlooking Cambridge.

"It’s like skating in front of a canvas," Burstein said. "It’s beautiful."

So beautiful, in fact, that the park has been featured in promotional videos for professional skateboarding teams, like Habitat's "Origins" and Zoo York's "Zoo York State of Mind."

On a sunny day, there can be as many as 20 people skating, ranging in age from seven to 40. Without a legal skate park where they can practice tricks, the ledges, stairs, and egg statues at the Nashua Street Park are not just the next best thing, they are the only thing.

Plans for the nearby Charles River Skatepark are moving slowly. In August, the Charles River Conservancy, which has raised $2.5 million for the park, attributed the delay in August to a "reorganization of state agencies and concern over long-term maintenance due to the recession."

Skateboarders are losing their patience for the project, which has been delayed 10 years behind schedule.

"They are holding $2.5 million hostage from the philanthropists and skateboarders who donated and raised it," said John Wynne, 27, an advocate for Boston skateboarding who is rallying to get the CRC to rescind ownership of the project to a committee that can complete the project in a reasonable timeframe.

"The fact is a skateboard park costs less than $500,000," Wynne said. "New York City has built six skate parks in 2010 and Portland, Oregon, has built 18 skate parks in 24 months."

But until the CRC makes a move for the new park, it's back to skating at Nashua Street.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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