Culture Magazine

A SK8 Park for Jersey City: How I Wrote a Report as an Investment in the Future

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
What I was doing when, 12 years ago I, wrote a report, Jersey City: from a Skate Park to the World, showed it to a number of people, including my councilman, Steve Fulop (who is now the mayor), Maggie Veca, owner of a local restaurant, and Peter Klapper, owner of a camera shop (now retired), and then posted it on the web. In that report I guesstimated that, by investing a quarter to a half billion dollars, the city – by which I mean people and institutions in the city, including the city government but certainly not limited to it – could create a “cultural corridor” comparable to Manhattan’s High Line (which didn’t exist when I wrote the report) that could generate 93 million or more dollars in annual revenue.
What was I thinking? The city didn’t have that kind of money then, nor does it now, for that kind of project. And I didn’t have any direct way of advancing that plan, that vision. It was just that, a vision. No more, but no less.
It wasn’t a practical proposal. But it wasn’t a mere academic exercise either. What was it?
Whenever I tell people of how I came to write that report I always get stuck on that point, on explaining what I was up to. It wasn’t a mere exercise to be left on my hard drive, or in a file folder, yielding only the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction of having written it. Nor was it a practical proposal to be presented to the city and county government, to philanthropists, and to developers who would then transform it into concrete plans of action. It was neither of those things and it was both.
So what was it, in and of itself?
It was an investment. We don’t ordinarily think of such things as investments. Shares of stock, mutual funds, government bonds, real estate (other than a primary residence), high end art, even a lowly savings account, these are investments as the word is ordinarily understood. In these cases we take something valuable and useful to us, in these cases, money, and take it out of use so that over time it may increase in value, though it is possible, of course, that this won’t happen. The expectation is that we will claim that increased value at a later date at which time we will put it to use.
In what way was my report like that? I invested time in it. I could have used that time to pursue my intellectual interests, or to take photographs, or even to take a free-lance gig of some kind. I didn’t do any of those things. I used my time to write that report. I figured that somehow, in ways I could not foresee at the time, that report would pay dividends, if you will.
And it has. Jersey City has finally broken ground on the skate park mentioned in that report. To be sure, the skate park that is being built isn’t in the same place as the one mentioned in the report, but, conceptually, it’s the same park. And that report, and a variety of activity that followed from it, played an important role in securing a grant from the Tony Hawk foundation that funded initial design work.
More diffusely, that report played a role in changing my relationship to Jersey City. When I wrote that report Jersey City was simply the place where I lived. Over the months and years after writing that report, Jersey City became my home – though I now live in Hoboken, immediately to the north of Jersey City.
I’ve told at least some of that story in three posts:
  • How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 1
  • How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 2
  • How I Found a Home in Jersey City and Got Steve Fulop Elected Mayor, Part 3
I would say that writing that report was a wise investment. And the best may be yet to come.
More later.

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