By Spencer Fowler Steen
Irate CBD residents are considering packing up and moving elsewhere due to the perceived danger and noise created by unruly skateboarders at Chinatown and Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Cohen St resident Forrister Jenot is concerned about groups of skaters vandalising and using private property adjacent Her Majesty’s Theatre to film daring stunts where they jump out onto the road in front of motorists and pedestrians.
Mr Jenot told CBD News after multiple calls to police and attempts to get the skateboarders to go elsewhere, he was ready to end his lease.
“They’re a safety issue, they leap off a boulevard into incoming pedestrians [and] we’re just waiting for a pregnant mother, or an elderly member of the community to be pushed over and hurt,” he said.
“I spoke to my neighbours and there are four of us who are really well and truly jack of it; that’s four of us considering moving somewhere else.”
Recently, the City of Melbourne re-capped blue stone structures commonly used for skating in Chinatown Square in order to deter skaters.
Mr Jenot claims skaters had previously ripped the caps off, and said Chinatown Square had been recast as a “youth crime area” which meant police were now quicker to respond to call outs to the area.
But the City of Melbourne’s Skate Plan – launched in 2017 partly in response to the city’s growing reputation as a world-renowned skating hot spot – is seeking to increase the provision, designation and integration of skateable spaces across the city.
“Shared spaces provide for street style skaters and long boarders and are more socially inclusive than traditional skate facilities which typically use fencing and are specifically designed exclusively for skating,” the plan states.
To reduce conflict in these shared spaces, the council said location criteria would be used to educate skaters and non-skaters on suitable spaces for skating, with strategic design helping to manage safety.
Signage that designates when skating is allowed in a multi-use space and planned programs that encourage responsible skating are other strategies listed in the plan.
But Mr Jenot is fed up with skaters creating noise, grafting, urinating and consuming alcohol illicit drugs around his apartment.
In the past, Mr Jenot said he had been verbally abused and shoved by skaters after confronting them.
“They say: ‘you’re just an idiot, if you don’t like it, why don’t you just move?’ They then explain to you urban skating is huge; ‘we get sponsorships from big companies like Adidas and they want us to be getting footage of us jumping of buildings and people homes’”, Mr Jenot said.
“They literally trespass on property. I say to the skaters ‘do you want the Skate Melbourne Plan?’ And they say ‘we don’t want to be confined to a skate park, we want to do what we want, where we want, and whenever we want and not be bothered by police, residents or council’”.
A spokesperson for the City of Melbourne said the council had to balance the needs of all people sharing in public space.
“We installed stronger skate deterrent fins around Her Majesty’s Theatre at the beginning of March to deter skaters from using this area,” the spokesperson said.
“The new fins have been drilled into the stone to ensure they can’t be forcefully removed. The gaps between blocks have also been cleaned out to act as a further deterrent to skaters.”
“Council authorised officers patrol the city proactively and in response to complaints, however we are unable to be in all areas of the municipality at all times.”
“We encourage residents to contact police to report any anti-social behaviour in their area.” •