Sign of the Times

Words by Hadrien Turner Photos by Victor Michael 

Harold Hunter’s colorful character left an impression on everyone he encountered. While he came to prominence as an actor in Larry Clark’s cult classic Kids, it was his appearance on the 1997 Zoo York Mixtape video that solidified his legendary status. It wasn’t just the Ghostface Killah and Method Man freestyles, but the fisheye-lens footage of Hunter’s unpretentiously brilliant skateboarding through various NYC parks and public spaces that made the clip legendary. All of this tragically ended, however, when he passed away at the age of 31 in his Lower East Side apartment after suffering a heart attack.

“People often forget that at the top of his game, Harold was the best skater in New York City,” says pro skateboarder and filmmaker Billy Rohan, who now runs the brand Samurai. Out of respect for his late friend and former Zoo York teammate, Rohan is spearheading a grassroots movement to rename the revered Coleman Skate Park after Harold Hunter. He’s even gone as far as putting fake signage around the LES park, designating it as “Harold Hunter Park.” Though it started as a prank, the movement has grown into something much more.

According to Rohan, nobody loved the neighborhood more than the late NYC skate legend. “Harold never liked to leave Manhattan. He hated going to Brooklyn. He didn’t want to leave the Lower East Side.” Growing up in the Campos Plaza housing projects, Hunter was known for welcoming skaters from all walks of life back to his home. Long before Pharrell and Lupe, he served as a beacon for countless black and Hispanic kids to get involved in skateboarding. “Harold was a special person to more than just skaters,” says Rohan, who also serves as an advisor to the Harold Hunter Foundation, a nonprofit that uses skateboarding as a way to help inner-city youth. “He was a special person to actors and artists… He is worth building a monument for.”

With all due respect to Cpl. Joseph Francis Coleman, the World War I veteran for whom the park is currently named, here at Mass Appeal, we believe the name has to change. Dedicating a skate park to Harold Hunter is a fitting tribute to New York’s most iconic skater and cements his position in the history of downtown NYC culture.

 

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