The Brooklyn Banks Are (Not) Back: RB Umali Interview + New Footage

Interview by Blair Alley:

So what’s the status of the Banks? How did you end up down there and know it was skateable?
I actually saw on Instagram that people were skating it. I saw a post saying that the fence was open and they weren’t storing any construction equipment there anymore. So the other day, we got some good weather and Spencer hit me up seeing if I wanted to roll down there. I got this new camera I’ve been wanting to film with and I was down to test it out there. So we head down there, and I don’t see any open fence but I run into Richard Quintero who was going to meet Eli there to film some stuff. There was a hole in the fence but Richard said, “I see a cop in his car over there, I don’t know if I want to go in.” I was like, “Let’s just go, let’s not hesitate.” So we went right in. I saw Eli waiting there and a couple other guys were already skating. Apparently Spencer and Ron Deily who were going to meet me there, were there before me but they didn’t see anybody skating and were too scared to hop the fence and be the only ones skating. So we went in there and Akira also met up with us.

We thought we’d have ten minutes in there but we actually skated in there for over an hour. Then out of nowhere, I see a cop on one side signalling us to leave, then other cops by the hole in the fence where we came through. I had this big bag on my back, like, “I’m not running, they have us surrounded. That’s going to make it worse.” We saw a couple Japanese skaters that Akira rolled with already outside and the cops were taking their names down, looking like they were getting tickets. I was like, “Let’s just be really polite, apologize, and try to talk our way out of it.” Spencer didn’t even wanna go. He was like, “Oh man I don’t even want to deal with this right now.”

Luckily, two of the cops were really cool. They were like, “What are you doing here? I was like, “Look, we saw on the internet that people were skating here.” They’re like, “Yeah we know, we’ve been kicking skaters out of here every day. We repaired the fence yesterday and then somebody tore it open again. If you guys keep jumping this fence, you’re going to make it worse. You should just talk to the Parks Department.”

So it’s definitely not officially open yet, but it should be soon.

I’m like, “Yeah we have been. I work with Steve Rodriguez who’s been working with them. This was supposed to open up for us back in 2015.”

They were like, “Yeah, we know, that’s out of our hands. We recommend you write a letter.”

“Yeah, I’ll write another letter, but it’s just a waste of space here. You’re not using it for equipment storage anymore. At least we’re putting it to use.”

“Yeah we understand. We’re not going to give you a ticket, we’re just going to give you warnings. Just talk to the Parks Department. It’s not in our hands.”

So I’m definitely encouraging everyone out there to write to the New York City Parks Department to ask when the Banks are going to be open. It’s a classic spot and they’re not using it anymore. We could be putting it to good use. And the cop was really cool, he was like, “Yeah, we understand this is a classic New York spot, and if you wanna bring it back to the original skateboarding, go to California and skate a pool.”

I was like, “Yeah but if we go to California and skate pools we’re trespassing also. So it’s a no-win situation. The least you can do is let us skate here.”

“Yeah, we understand. We don’t want any problems but it’s our job to enforce this area right now while this fence is up.”

So it’s definitely not officially open yet, but it should be soon. They took my name and ID down, and I got a feeling there’s gonna be a lot of people skating there this weekend anyway, so every skater should be on there toes, have ID on them and be polite to the cops that kick you out. They understand we’re gonna be skating there, but they’re gonna be enforcing it for sure.

Is the Little Banks section ever going to be skateable again?
They pretty much ruined that permanently. They wanted to put artificial grass in the area and make it a Tai Chi area. Even if they opened that up, there’s nothing really to skate there. Unfortunately, that was my favorite part of the Banks.

Mine too. We should talk to Nike and see if they can work their magic and bring the Little Banks back.
Get some new, old bricks in there (laughs).

Do you have a favorite trick you filmed at the Banks over the last 20-25 years you’ve been skating there?
Oh man, there’re so many favorite sessions I had at the Banks. There was definitely one day where I filmed seven or eight classic tricks all in one day. We just had a classic session with Jason Dill, Chad Muska, Zered, Danny Supa, all just happened to be there in one day. And it was a random day, we weren’t even going to skate there. I think my favorite trick would be Javier Nunez’s switch kickflip over the wall. I believe it was in a Trilogy video, or 20 Shot Sequence Menace section. And then Big Brother used it as a video grab. I just remember him doing it so perfectly. It was a cold day, it was only me, Javier Nunez and Maurice Key at the banks. No one else was skating that day. That just goes down as one of the first sick tricks I filmed over the wall.

What year was that?
That was probably 1996.

NYC Park Maintenance website