Photo Credit tcolla.com
Andrew Kessler is not anymore with us. The Greek American Skateboarder died last week from complications due to an allergic reaction to a wasp sting he suffered near Montauk, New York, where he was spending summer time surfing and helping a friend get off drugs.
The Skateboard community is shocked for the loss of such a good “brother” as they call him in thousands of mesages that are posted on internet sites and message boards. A forum in which people have posted threads and pictures of Andy can be found here.
Kessler was born in Athens, Greece, adopted by an American family and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, along with another infant orphan from Athens raised as his twin sister. He started skateboarding in the early 1970s in Central Park, on a short hill near to its West 69th Street entrance. He soon joined a group of inner city kids congregating around the bandshell inside the park at West 71st Street, the street he was raised on. The steep paths of nearby Riverside Park also became a favorite haunt of Kessler and other skateboarders.
He was a prominent member of The Soul Artists of Zoo York, which eventually broke up in 1980 and was featured in the documentary Deathbowl to Downtown.
As skateboard technology advanced through the introduction of urethane wheels and specially designed skateboard trucks replaced makeshift rollerskate trucks, Kessler joined other New York kids in developing new forms and styles of skating, including the use of ramps — often consisting of plywood billboard leaned against a park wall or building — to “go vertical” and improvise other acrobatic tricks. Emerging as a leading figure among city boarders, he helped found an associated group of the 1970s graffiti gang The Soul Artists — a splinter group which became known as the skateboard crew Soul Artists of Zoo York.
Featured in trade catalogues and articles in skateboard magazines such as “Thrasher” and “Transworld Skateboarding,” Kessler became a guiding force in the design, development, funding and building of “skateparks” citywide, nationwide and eventually worldwide. He was also a community youth activist who worked with city teens to better themselves, their circumstances, and their urban environment, often in conjunction with the creation of free skating facilities to expend their energies on.
Kessler headed up efforts to create a skatepark in Riverside Park, which was dedicated by New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern on August 21, 1996. Built with the help of teenagers from Harlem and the Upper West Side, Riverside Skate Park became the city’s first municipal park facility designed and constructed solely for skateboarders and rollerbladers. One of the top five applications in the National Park Service’s “Innovation in Recreation” Grant Program, the project received a $50,000 grant, which was matched by the New York City Parks Department, the City Parks Foundation, and local lumber, pipe and paint suppliers. Kessler supervised twenty Manhattan teenagers who, after participating in a workshop conducted by the Alternatives to Violence Project, spent five weeks building Riverside Skate Park. The result is one of the most creative recreation facilities in New York City, which transformed an obsolete and disused playground, and provided thousands of city kids a place of their own to skate. He recently designed and hand built, with the help of two friends, a skatepark for the Youth Center on Rock City Road in Woodstock, New York.
In a 1999 interview conducted by Masha Falkov, a high school student, that was posted on the Internet, Mr. Kessler related what he would want God to say to him at the Pearly Gates: “You’ve done a good job, but you left a few things out, so we’re sending you back.”
Watch a Video about Andy Kessler: