Long Beach rejects assertion that 14th Street Stake Park Project is ‘stimulus waste’

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long-beach-skate-parkThe City of Long Beach today defended the multiple community benefits of a proposed skate park expansion and rejected a Senator’s assertion that the project is an inappropriate use of Stimulus dollars.

Today, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) released a list of 100 projects that he believes are not appropriate uses of Stimulus dollars passed by Congress.  Long Beach’s 14th Street Skate Park Expansion project was listed as number 96 on the list.

It is absurd that the merits of the 14th Street Park Expansion are being called into question,” said First District Councilmember Robert Garcia.  “This project meets so many of the Stimulus package goals passed by Congress.  It creates jobs, is shovel ready, meets the guidance published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and has the added benefit of making a true impact in the lives of youth who have very little to look forward to.”

The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the 14th Street Park expansion on June 2, 2009 after passionate testimony from the community about the need for this park expansion.  The project utilizes Community Development Block Grant funds to expand a 3,000 square foot Skate Park in one of the lowest-income and historically high-crime areas in Long Beach into an 8,000 square foot park at a cost of $620,000.  The project is shovel ready, creates 10 full-time construction jobs, and can be awarded within 120 days from the date the funds are made available.

“The Long Beach 14th Street Skate Park is an essential recreational facility for young people in one of the most vulnerable and densely populated areas in the country,” Mr. Garcia said.  “It will bring jobs and an improved quality of life to Long Beach, and I would like to personally invite the Senator to visit our community and to tell the kids who want and need this park why he wants to take it away from them.”

The City of Long Beach is extremely proud of its efforts in securing Stimulus funding.  The City and our government partners have accepted $22,843,204 in funds thus far for the Long Beach area.  We expect to receive a total of $53 million in Stimulus dollars through formulas, and are competing for $552 million in additional funds.  

While Stimulus dollars cannot be used for casinos, aquariums, golf courses, swimming pools, and zoos, there is no prohibition on using this funding for skate parks.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued guidance that the funds may not be used for “recreational facilities that serve a predominantly higher income clientele.”  Over 85 percent of the population served by the 14th Street Skate Park are low/moderate income residents, and 44.5 percent of the youth in the neighborhood live in poverty.  In addition, Long Beach has not received any official notification from HUD that this is not an allowable project under the Stimulus guidelines.

Improvements to the 14th Street Skate Park include fabrication and installation of new skate park equipment as well as associated site work, grading, concrete, fencing, shade structures, and benches.  This area is located in one of the most impoverished areas in Long Beach, and the park currently has given hundreds of kids in the neighborhood an alternative to drugs, gangs and the many negatives they face each day.  The City’s application shows that the project meets the goals of Job Creation, Benefiting Low Income Communities, Blight Reduction and Economic Development and Smart Growth.

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