Roller disco derby takes over Fishtown’s new roundabout before it opens to cars

Officials say the freshly paved traffic circle will open to vehicular traffic “soon.”

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Max Marin / Billy Penn
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As the sun set on Sunday night, a small group of Philly rollerbladers started skating around a freshly constructed roundabout in Fishtown, inviting the bar-hopping crowd and evening strollers to join them for beers, dancing and general reverie.

Come Monday afternoon, the party evolved into a full-blown roller disco that drew more than 150 people out to the new traffic circle at the intersection of York Street and Trenton and Frankford avenues.

The roundabout — a $1.1 million project that broke ground in March — has a small green patch at center, and for now, plenty of carless space before it officially opens to vehicles. And the Streets Department, which is in charge of the project, told Billy Penn that policies don’t explicitly forbid hangouts on the circle in the meantime.

Behind the spontaneous shindig was local “carpe diem” enthusiast Justyn Myers. Previously known as creator of Fishtown’s infamous dumpster pool, he’s also the guy who says he backflipped into the flooded Vine Street Expressway last week.

Myers, on wheels and shirtless, said he’s active in the roller derby scene, organizing regular meetups at a nearby rec center and also at the Navy Yard. But the weekend disco derby was a spur of the moment decision.

“Me and my homie, we brought the speakers and then [it was just] word of mouth,” Myers said.

That homie was local DJ Kiernan Ross, who set up his turntables around 1 p.m. on Monday and served up retro dance tunes until after sunset, as bladers young and old did loops on the fresh macadam. Neighbors mingled. Skateboarders joined in. People danced.

“If you’re not harming people and you’re actually bringing happiness, the city doesn’t seem to care,” Ross said.

MAX MARIN / BILLY PENN

Nearly nine months after construction began, paving machines and other heavy equipment are gone from sight. Metal fencing still surrounds the roundabout, but it’s not exactly a barrier to pedestrians.

Since the thoroughfare is still closed to traffic, said Streets Dept. spokesperson Crystal Jacobs, you don’t need a block party permit to be there — as long as you’re not obstructing the right of way.

That won’t be the case for long, though. Jacobs said the department is meeting with the contractor this week for a final review, and “we expect the street will be open to traffic soon.”

The roundabout should come in about $20,000 under the original $1.1 million price tag, per Streets. It’s being paid for via Automated Red Light Camera funds.

For the rollerbladers, the hangout was a one and done event — but a memorable one.

“Where can you hang on a roundabout like this? Freshly paved,” said instigator Myers. “The neighbors love it.”

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