Where to Skate: Brooklyn

Prospect Park

The following article excerpt by Lise Broer is a pretty concise description of Prospect Park. It originally appeared in the April 1995 issue of the New York City edition of MetroSports magazine.

Many New Yorkers are not aware that there are two parks in the city that are good for skating laps. Situated between the Park Slope and Flatbush neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Prospect Park is the borough's largest park. Scenery ranges from rolling meadow to rocky thicket to placid pond with occasional outcroppings of neoclassical architecture. The effect is remarkably like a more famous park across the East River, but without horse drawn carriages and congested roads. Prospect Park is the work of designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, built from 1866 to 1872. The same team planned Central Park.

The main roads of this park form a circuit of 3.45 miles. West Drive begins at Grand Army Plaza [photo] and runs southwest along the Long Meadow, a half-mile stretch of gentle hillsides and baseball fields. At 3rd Street is an entrance that often serves as a skaters' meeting ground. The Bandshell, visible to the right between 10th and 11th streets, is a popular place to practice. West Drive bends to the left at a bridle path and passes the south end of Long Meadow. Then the road veers rightward and begins a steep descent. Lookout Hill may or may not be the rival of Central Park's notorious Lasker Hill, but it does test the nerves.

Near the top of Lookout Hill is an easily missed transverse called Center Drive. This branches to the left and offers salvation to the novice. Taking this route shortens a lap to 2.6 miles. The Prospect Park Alliance encourages skaters to use Center Drive as a quiet practice ground.

Back to West Drive, Lookout Hill ends at Prospect Lake. As the road rounds the bottom of the park it changes name and becomes East Drive. The skate is nearly flat from Prospect Lake past [Kate] Wollman Rink to the Prospect Park Wildlife Center, better known as the zoo. East Drive becomes a brutally winding climb on Breeze Hill near Battle Pass. This site got its name from the Battle of Long Island. In 1776 Revolutionary War volunteers briefly slowed the British army here on its advance to New York. Shortly after reaching the top of the hill Grand Army Plaza becomes visible again.

Some notes subsequent to the above information:

Effective since summer 2015, the Prospect Park loop is closed to auto traffic except for a couple exceptions. First, the eastern half of the loop is open to cars on weekday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. Second, cars are allowed on a bit of the southest section of the loop in order to access the LeFrak Center parking lot, but supposedly only during the ice skating season (October through March).

As of spring 2016, the quality of the asphalt on the Prospect Park loop is good to excellent. The west side of the loop has just been re-surfaced, so many of the patchy areas are gone. It's been a few years since the east side was resurfaceed, but at the moment it is still in good condition. There is just one bit about a hundred yards long in the southeast where there is a problem with the asphalt going bad.

Also, please note that although the Prospect loop is usually three lanes wide so that conflict between park users for space should not be a problem, you still need to watch out. In particular, the road is a bit tight at the southernmost point, near Machate Circle, and cyclists (and inline speedskaters) are likely to be zooming like crazy here after descending the long downhill.

For further info about Prospect Park, you may wish to visit the homepage of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Crown Heights

If you're looking to skate east-west across central Brooklyn, Eastern Parkway is probably the road for you. From the corner of Prospect Park at Washington Ave. on the west to around Ralph Ave. on the east, the parkway is four lanes of smooth asphalt, flanked on both sides by promenades, flanked in turn by two more lanes for neighborhood access and parking. The center four lanes shouldn't be skated since auto traffic seems to be consistently fast and thick, but the promenades are none too shabby. They're each about twenty feet wide and are paved with hexagonal brick that would appear to have been laid down within recent memory; i.e., they're still smooth.

Bay Ridge and Bath Beach

The Shore Parkway bikepath runs along the Brooklyn shoreline from Bay Ridge Ave. at the northwest south to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and then southeast to Bensonhurst Park and Bay Parkway. Total length is a bit over four miles. It is a haunt of skaters, noteably neighborhood families. Being right next to the water, it's almost flat along its entire length and so is mostly a non-challenging, scenic skate.

For safety reasons, the path can be divided into two parts, with the VZN Bridge marking the dividing point. The path on the south part is no more than twelve feet wide, which may sound good, but the density of skaters, joggers and cyclists means this is sometimes not enough. Furthermore, asphalt on the southern section was os of summer 2015 in mediocre shape, skateable but in many spots just barely so.

Speed is possible in the northern half, as the path is about twice as wide, with a physical division between the "lanes" of the path meant for bicycle (i.e., fast) use and the pedestrian promenade. The asphalt in the north is also in much better condition, although there are spots where you will have to watch out for developing sinkholes.

Besides the traffic density on the southern half of the Shore Parkway bikepath, some problems to contend with are stiff breezes from the bay (it may seem like there's a headwind whichever direction you travel) and exhaust from the adjacent highway, especially in the north. This may be balanced, however, by the views. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is itself an awesome sight, but you can watch ships transiting the Narrows and in the north there's a decent view of lower Manhattan from the American Veterans Pier at the end of Bay Ridge Ave. With a zoom lens, you can take some nice pics of the Statue of Liberty. The scene around sunset is supposed to be particularly nice.

Access to the bikepath is somewhat limited. In the north, you have to enter from either Bay Ridge Ave or from pedestrian overpasses at 80th and 92nd Sts. In the south, there are a couple of parking lots along the highway, an overpass somewhere around Bay 19th Ave., and then Bay Parkway. There also appears to be a pedestrian overpass either adjacent to the VNB or at the end of Fourth Ave.

Just a few hundred yeards from the Bay Ridge Ave. entrance to the bikepath is the Millennium Skatepark in Owl's Head Park.

Marine Park

There is a small loop in the northernmost section of Marine Park, an area bounded by Avenue U, Stuart St., Fillmore Ave., and East 33rd St. The circumference is about one mile, and word is that the eastern side is in somewhat better condition. The area is flat and wide open, which means it's a good learning area for beginning skaters but also that it can get a bit windy at times.

Also accessible from Marine Park is a bike lane alongside Flatbush Ave. which can be followed south all the way across Floyd Bennett Field to Riis Park, in Rockaway, Queens, although there is a bridge on the route and the skateable lane is said to be steep and narrow at this point. The north end is near the Kings Plaza shopping mall, at Flatbush and Avenue U. There is a short spur off to the west along the Shore Pkwy., terminating near where Knapp St. meets the parkway.