The New York City Inline Skating Guide
Where to Skate: Brooklyn
One of the finest places to skate in New York is the Brooklyn Bridge. It's not because it's so smooth, as the wooden boards which make up the pedestrian/cyclist path over the bridge are pretty hard on the feet and calves, but because the view from the bridge's midpoint is unbeatable, particularly at night. The Manhattan access to the bridge is just east of city hall; the Brooklyn end of the walkway is at the intersection of Tillary St. and Adams St.
Once over the bridge into Brooklyn, you'll find that the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is not far away, about six blocks directly west. However, while you can skate along there for another terrific view of the Manhattan skyline, the pavement is in poor shape. And if you visit at night, the lighting is very poor. So, it's worth it to pop in and take a look, but not to hang around.
Byrne Playground, at the corner of 4th Ave. and 3rd St. has some large asphalt areas that are used for rollerhockey.
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 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.
Additionally, effective April 1999, the park is closed to motor vehicles all day on weekends and from 9 AM to 5 PM and 7 PM to 10 PM on weekdays through the beginning of November. From November through March, the park is open to automobiles all day on weekdays. A section of the Prospect Park Loop in the southeast near the LeFrak Center is always open to auto traffic so that cars may access the parking lot.
Two other points omitted from the above article are that: 1) the asphalt on the entire Prospect Park loop is in good shape, and 2) the recreation lanes on the left side of the road seem to be wider on average than those in Central Park, so potential conflict between skaters, joggers, and bikers shouldn't be much of a problem even when cars are in the park. But that's not to say that aren't problems. There is apparently something of a problem with cars exceeding the speed limit when they are allowed in the park, and occasionally driving in the recreation lane. Additionally, a cyclist was killed in the always-open-to-cars section of the park loop near the rink during the summer of 1997 when she swerved to avoid some joggers and was struck by a van.
For further info about Prospect Park, you may wish to visit the homepage of the Prospect Park Alliance.
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.
The Shore Parkway bikepath from Bay Ridge Ave. south to Bay Parkway is a haunt of many skaters, noteably neighborhood families. Being right next to the water, it's almost flat along its entire length and so is a non-challenging, scenic skate.
For safety reasons, the path can be divided into two parts, with the Verrazano-Narrows 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. The closer you get to Bay Parkway, the worse it gets. Basically, this means no zipping along in this area.
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 for others. The asphalt in the north is also in better condition and there seem to be fewer people there.
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. 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.
Unfortunately, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge itself is off-limits to pedestrian, bicyclist, and skater use.
A skatepark has been proposed for construction in Owl's Head Park, near the north end of the bikepath.
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.