The answer is no, parkour is not illegal in New York. Anyone can practice parkour in public parks, spaces, and indoor gyms that offer parkour facilities in the city.
Practitioners’ Values: How it Prevents Them From Doing Any Damage to Public Spaces
Though the assumption of trespassing and obstruction of walkways is always there, genuine traceurs (the term used to call Parkour practitioners) actually hold values that make them respectful of urban environments. They follow the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, wherein they try as much as they can to ensure the venue is clean and safe after they’ve used the space. They also strive to make venues cleaner than when they first stepped foot in the place.
Organized groups and movements carry values enforced on their practitioners to respect the playground. Locations can include public parks, abandoned structures, and gyms. In cases of damage to equipment and materials, traceurs report them right away to park officers and acknowledge accountability.
Those who practice holding the philosophy of Parkour also respect nature by never hanging on tree branches, running over gardens, landscaped lawns, or climbing trees. They strictly execute their movements on manmade structures such as cemented walls, stairwells, railings, fences, gaps between roofs, and other structures.
Practicing the values and philosophy of Parkour ensures that practitioners get to continue to use public spaces by respecting parks, playgrounds, officials, civilians, and officers.
Parkour Practice in New York
Parkour was introduced in the US by Mark Toorock, who was based in Washington, DC when he brought it to the country after learning the skills and values in Europe in the 90s.
Parkour is founded by David Belle, who created the practice in the 90s. From Lisses, a suburb in Paris, Parkour eventually spread throughout Europe due to videos posted on the internet. Eventually, it made its way to the US, thanks in part to Toorock, and pop culture features that included TV guests and movie features, particularly due to the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, where practitioner and David Belle’s best friend at the time, Sebastian Foucan, was featured in the film.
What makes New York a favorite playground of traceurs is that in every borough, the urban landscapes provide ample opportunities for executing jumps, rolls, runs, flips, and other movements.
Training and meet-ups are usually done in public spaces since Parkour’s philosophy of practice are based upon adaptability, creativity, and freedom. Some gyms offer indoor Parkour facilities, and government officials have suggested designated public facilities, but many practitioners are against these venues because it contradicts the true essence of the practice.
Top Places in New York for Parkour Practitioners
Though Parkour is legal in New York, practitioners suggest not practicing in private spaces such as office buildings, apartments, hotels, and locations that are not open for public use.
Public parks are the best places to train and meet up with other practitioners, and some of these are the Hudson River Park, Riverbank State Park, Washington Square Park, Travers Park in Jackson Heights, Queens, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and of course, the best spot for traceurs, Central Park in Manhattan.
Central Park is a favorite among beginners and avid practitioners because it is packed with numerous man-made and natural obstacles that are perfect for all skill levels. Onlookers can see traceurs at the park almost daily.
One park, however, banned traceurs from practicing on its premises, and this is Battery City Park in the south area of Manhattan. In 2010, the park stated that climbing on walls and using structures that are not intended for their use is not allowed.
Park officials defined “the reckless use of state property,” as used rails, walls, and stair rails in a manner that’s not intended for its purpose. The fine for this violation starts at $300.
Except for Battery Park, almost every public park in New York allows traceurs to train in its spaces. In fact, certain Parkour groups work with the New York Parks and Recreation Dept. to continuously maintain sustainable and mutual relationships between the athletes and park officials.
Parkour is completely legal to practice in New York, as long as you stick to public parks and spaces, respect officers and civilians, as well as respect the playground. If an officer comes and asks practitioners to stop or leave, you must respect them, leave, and move to another location, so members of the movement continue to maintain cordial relationships with authorities and continue to practice in harmony with the urban city.