Where to Skate: Manhattan South
- West Side Bikepath and Hudson River Park
- East River Waterfront
- Greenwich Village and East Village
West Side Bikepath and Hudson River Park
A great place to skate is the bike/skate/ped path running alongside West St. and the Hudson River north from Battery Park, passing Battery Park City and the World Trade Center site, entering Hudson River Park at Chambers St., passing the Chelsea Piers complex in the 20s and then the Intrepid Air/Space Museum, and then finally linking with the promenade in Riverside Park north of 59th St.
The bulk of the West Side Bikepath is now part of Hudson River Park, the strip of shoreline and many of the piers between Chambers St., on the north side of Battery Park City, and 59th St.
Immediately east of the bikepath is West St. and the West Side Highway, aka Route 9A. In many places, there are planted dividers between the path and the highway and between the path and the waterfront promenade. Except for a few places, lighting is generally pretty good for skating at night. However, glare from headlights can be troublesome if you are skating north after dark.
As you can imagine, the path usually sees a lot of activity on weekend afternoons from skaters, cyclists and joggers, and traffic is both ways, so please keep your head screwed on when skating at that time. Stay to your right except when passing, and pay attention for people who want to pass you from behind. (A lot of skaters strap on their headphones and skate along sedately, totally oblivious to any traffic jam of cyclists and skaters that might be building up behind them.) Be prepared to shout a warning at oblivious cell-phone users meandering the wrong direction and paying no heed to anyonee.
Aside from possible congestion, the chief problem you will experience along the park bikepath are the park access points crossing the path, where you have to cope with pedestrians and in some places motor vehicles. Possibly the busiest are the block in front of the Winter Garden (across the street from the WTC site) and the area around Pier 40 (i.e., between Houston and Christopher Sts.); the former is of course a popular tourist area and the latter seems to be an incredibly popular spot for people to hang out in the evening, and into the night on weekends. Additionally, there can be vehicular problems at a number of locations, including the Pier 40 parking garage, the Chelsea Piers complex, the ferry dock near 35th St., and the USS Intrepid museum.
A few of the piers sticking out into the Hudson River are open to pedestrian access. The paving on some is wonderful, and on others quite messed up and unskateable. The concrete pier leading out to the Holland Tunnel ventilation tower should be okay for a slow scenic roll when it's open.
Hudson River Park also includes skateparks at Pier 25 (N. Moore St.) and Pier 62 (22nd St.).
Battery Park City:
In addition to the ten-block section of the West Side Bikepath between Battery Park and Hudson River Park, Battery Park City also features a riverside promenade that was once a popular venue for recreational skaters. The promenade connects to the main bikepath on the back side of Stuyvesant High School at Chambers St., and its southern end is a moment's roll away from Battery Park.
Roughly speaking, the area inside BPC may be divided into three parts, Wagner Park, the central esplanade, and Rockefeller Park, with the dividing points being the South Cove and North Cove. But in all three areas, there are signs indicating paths which are off-limits to skaters and cyclists, and rangers do enforce the regulations.
On the south end of Battery Park City, immediately adjacent to Battery Park, is Wagner Park, which includes the Holocaust Memorial. Although the entire BPC waterfront is scenic, this may be the most scenic of all, offering a terrific view of the Statue of Liberty. However, the area is not terribly large and the signs indicating which areas are no-skating can be confusing. So pop in, take a look around, but don't expect to spend much time here.
North of Wagner Park, the many buildings in Battery Park City come almost to the river's edge, leaving only a pleasant esplanade along which to skate. The walkway is divided into two levels by trees and bushes, and skating, cycling, etc. are barred from the upper, inland path. (Again, park rangers and/or security guards will be more than happy to point this out should you err.) There also tend to be many sight-seers and romantic couples walking along here, so while it's scenic, it's not particularly the best place to do much skating.
At the north end of the central esplanade is the plaza between the North Cove and the Winter Garden (a huge atrium in one of the buildings of the World Financial Center), where things are bit more wide-open. Again, it can be crowded with pedestrians on nice days.
Right next to the mercantile exchange building — a very congested spot due to the ferry landing — the riverside esplanade continues into Nelson Rockefeller Park, probably the best section of Battery Park City for skating as it is larger, is more wide open and probably has somewhat fewer pedestrians. The only problem is that there do tend to be a lot of kids running around, so keep an eye out for knee-high, random missiles.
East River Waterfront
Unlike the Hudson side of Manhattan, the East River side is cut into segments when it comes to figuring out to skate along the waterfront.
East River Bikepath:
There is a marked bikepath, separate from the street, which runs along the East River from the South Ferry to Montgomery St., north of the Manhattan Bridge. It is parallel to South St., directly below the FDR, and lies between the street and the waterfront promenade.
Except for a bad stretch adjacent to the old Fulton Fish Market location (between South Street Seaport and the Brooklyn Bridge), the path is generally smooth. However, the area around the South Street Seaport does not have a marked cycling lane distinct from the promenade, and is usually busy with tourists, so watch it along here.
At Montgomery St., by Pier 36, one can continue along the river and connect to East River Park via an access road. The pavement on the access road is in bad to terrible shape, so we are reluctant to recommend that route.
John Lindsay East River Park:
This park stretches from Jackson St. south of the Williamsburg Bridge up to 13th St. and has a riverside esplanade the entire way.
East River Park was long in such bad shape that it wasn't worth any effort for skaters to visit, but that has vastly changed. Because of rotted pilings and other problems, the esplanade was thoroughly decrepit and other parts of the park also needed significant work. Reconstruction park began in late 2001, and even as lots of stuff (e.g., renovating ballfields and the boathouse) got done, the city kept finding that yet more was going to require much more work than expected.
But after ten years or more of work, the esplanade has been restored from 6th St. up to 13th St., and the "East River Bikeway" — the access road alongside the FDR has also been repaved. Both these routes are gloriously smooth, with the exception of areas near the very south end, below the ampitheater. The only problems are that you'll have to watch out for fishermen, kids and dogwalkers on the esplanade, and for occasional gravel on the bikeway.
However, access tof the park is still a bit of hassle. The bikeway from Montgomery St. past Pier 42 to the park is a mess, with the bit closest to the park being just marginally skateable and prone to puddle s and suffering from broken asphalt in some areas.
There are also accesses to East River Park via pedestrian overpasses at 10th St., 6th St., East Houston and Delancey. (Note: As of early 2017, DOT is working on a couple of these overpasses. So be careful.) At the north end, there is a very narrow sidewalk that connects with a riverside promenade at about 15th St. and which is accessed at 20th St.
East Midtown Waterfront:
North of John Lindsay East River Park, it is possible to continue skating along or close to the river along the East River Bikeway as far as East 41st St. That's not to say that it's good skating, but it can be done. Much of the route is access roads linking to facilities along the river, such as the Waterside Plaza complex at East 25th St., the restaurant at East 30th St., and the heliport at East 34th.
The last access at the north is at East 37th St., as the next four blocks of rebuilt pier to the north do not (currently) lead anywhere. At 37th (Glick Park), one has to pass through a low underpass to reach the street and to get over to First Ave. Watch out for traffic at the underpass because the traffic on the FDR access roads is fast and sightlines are bad.
Further north, the city has proposed development of an "East Midtown Waterfront Project" that would create an esplanade extending north from East 38th St. to East 60th. Detailed information is available on the city EDC website. Part of the arrangement in creating the esplanade was that the city cut a deal with the United Nations that would allow for extending the esplanade alongside the UN but at the extend of sacrificing part of Robert Moses Playground at First and 42nd.
Downtown (Below Houston St.)
Most of the paths in Battery Park are smooth, but the large number of tourists passing through here on the way to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island ferries makes skating here during the day a bad idea. It's nicer during the evening.
The outdoor Moffo hockey rink at Martin F. Tanahey Playground is located in the middle of the block bound by Cherry St., Market Slip, Water St. and Catherine St. As of January 2017, the surface looked to be okay for skating, although seams between sections might be troublesome.
Greenwich Village and East Village (Between Houston St. and 14th St.)
There are several marked north-south bike lanes in the Village area, possibly making this the neighborhood with the densest collection of bike lanes in Manhattan. Just about anywhere, you should be able to go no more than a couple blocks east or west and find a bike lane.
Washington Square Park:
After a major renovation project, Washington Square Park re-opened in May 2009. The new pathways are silky smooth and make sweet skating. However, pedestrian traffic here is almost always very high, so this is generally not a good place to skate.
Tompkins Square Park:
The paths in Tompkins Square Park (bordered by Avenues A and B and East 7th and 10th Sts.) are in generally good shape. The park can be pretty busy, but generally not so much as Washington Square Park, plus it's bigger.
In the northwest corner (10th St. and Ave A) of the park there are stickball and basketball courts. The former an incredibly smooth surface, useful for even advanced skaters to practice their stuff. The latter was once used by the roller basketball league during summer weekend mornings, but now seems to be used for weekday pick-up rollerhockey.
Midtown (Between 14th St. and 59th St.)
Several of the avenues in Midtown are generally good skating for those travelling north-south because of the bicycle/skating lanes which they sport on the left side of the street. For uptown travel, there are bike lanes on First Ave. all the way from its start at Houston up to 125th St.; on Sixth Ave. from 9th St. to 42nd St.; and on Eighth Ave. up to 57th St. (with a gap in front of the Port Authority). Heading downtown, there is a bike lane which runs down Broadway from Columbus Circle to Union Square and another on Fifth Ave. from Madison Square to Washington Square. As of the end of 2016 the bike lane through Times Square has been restored as a "cycle track" along Seventh Ave., but pedestrians wandering every which way can sometimes render the lane unusable.
The skateability of the other Midtown avenues, and of the bike lanes themselves, varies from year to year, depending on how recently they've been resurfaced, how bad the last winter has been, and when the utilities last went on a rampage.
See also the Hudson River Park section above for details about the bikepath along the westernmost edge of Midtown.
Union Square can be a fun place to skate after dark or on Sunday, when the greenmarket crowds are gone. The north side of the square, along 17th St., is a large, wide-open paved area where you'll often see newbies trying out their new wheels and more experienced skaters practicing dancing moves, maybe playing a pickup game of rollerhockey, or even doing some slaloming or ramp jumps.
On the south side, along 14th St., there are a lot of shallow steps that are great for practicing stair bashes and curb grinds. There are some signs mounted on lamp posts on the south end of Union Square park that say, "No skateboarding no rollerblading [sic]", However, enforcement of whatever ban there might be seems to be episodic. There've been some evenings when I've been there for 30-45 minutes, watching skaters or boarders bashing and grinding away without any harassment. On one of these occasions there was even a cop who was coolly watching the scene but leaving the skaters alone.
Robert Moses Playground:
Just across 42nd St. from the United Nations is Robert Moses Playground, a very smooth asphalt area which is painted for rollerhockey, with organized league play on weekends. The only deficiencies are that the playground has a slope (the south end is low) and that it's occasionally cluttered with twigs. Most of the gates are locked at night, but the one at the southwest corner is usually open around the clock.