One of the greatest things about New York City is the way it gives people with nearly any interest a chance to forge new ground and make a name for themselves. It doesn't much matter if your thing is painting, pizzamaking, architecture, handball or politics - New York's got enough room for all of them -- and then some. It also doesn't much matter if any of those things is a particular interest of yours, because another part of being a New Yorker is appreciating people achieving great heights in our shared city.
That brings us to Andy Kessler, who died in Montauk after an allergic reaction to a hornet sting on Monday. The name might not be familiar to many of you, but Kessler is just the kind of New Yorker described above. In the late 70's and early 80's, he and a crew of cronies basically created the New York City skateboarding scene that plays itself out daily around the city. And they did it without winning any of the acclaim of their California peers who have been immortalized in movies like "Dogtown and Z-Boys"
Your mileage may vary when it comes to enjoying/tolerating skateboarders, but it's hard not to admire the way Kessler turned his passion into something that can be shared by New Yorkers of all ages today. He built the first skate park in New York on 108th street in Manhattan and helped build skate parks in Brooklyn, Riverside Park and on Pier 40 on the Hudson River, helping legitimize the outlaw pursuit that drove him as a younger man.
For a feeling of what he meant to the skateboarding community, check out David Browne's profile of Kessler for New York Magazine in 2005, click to one of several skateboarding message boards celebrating his life today or check out this interview with him.
But you don't even need to get deep into the skateboarding world to appreciate what Kessler accomplished in his life. He found something he was passionate about, pursued it to the fullest and in the process he created something that hadn't existed before. Kessler reshaped the way the city lived and played without asking for or receiving much credit for what he did.
That's a New York life, and one that deserves a moment of respect from the fellow denizens of his city.