One of the city’s most beloved skate spots will be renovated by fall 2023.
The multipurpose court, known as Tompkins TF, in the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park has long been a place for skaters of all skill levels to gather, learn, and practice tricks. Next year, the city Parks Department will reconstruct the space, while maintaining its versatility. Plans include renewing the asphalt, adding new benches, and replacing the old basketball backstops.
The project was laid out by NYC Parks officials during Community Board 3's Parks, Recreation, Waterfront, & Resiliency Committee virtual meeting on Thursday, as first reported by local news site EV Grieve.
During the meeting, Parks Department landscape architect Max Goodstein said the current asphalt in the court has structural damage, and needs to be repaired.
“The only way to do that is to take it all away, down to the sub base, and put new asphalt down,” Goodstein said during the meeting.
Currently, deep cracks in the asphalt run like vines throughout the court. Scattered throughout is a collection of ramps and boxes of varying sizes that skaters and others who use the space move around on a daily basis, depending on needs and preferences.
On Monday night, 21-year-old Sinjin Mendenhall was at the court rearranging the ramps for his next skate session. He told Gothamist that although the roughness adds to the space’s character, a smoother surface would be welcome.
“I have fallen many times because of this awful ground, and it does hurt a lot. So if everything does go to plan, hopefully it will just be better version of this.” Mendenhall said. “It is riddled with cracks. And that's sort of like, I don’t really know to be honest, it could be a hindrance, but it can also be just something fun to do tricks over.”
The new version of the court will include a two-lane walking loop, a multilayer drinking fountain, a kickball court, three new basketball half courts and expanded tree pits. The dugouts will be removed, and replaced with more benches.
Goodstein said the project is expected to take three months, and be completed by fall 2023, though a start date is yet to be determined.
At Thursday night’s meeting, one concerned resident pointed out the lack of designated space for skaters.
“I don't see any facility, any recognition, anything for skaters. I’m really concerned that the young people in this neighborhood are being pushed out of this famous, much loved, much used skating space,” the resident said. “You even opened it with pictures of skaters, what are you gonna do about this?”
The lack of identified skating facilities, Goodstein said, was intentional. The site currently has none, other than the makeshift equipment skaters bring themselves. Goodstein said the Parks Department had spoken to skaters at the park, and determined it would be best to keep it that way.
“What makes the site so special, is it's a flat ground site, so there’s no handrails there’s no ramps and its not explicitly for skateboarding, which makes it approachable for all ages and all beginner levels of skateboarding, and they appreciate the fact that it's an open asphalt area,” Goodstein said.
In 2019, Adam Zhu and other local skaters petitioned and organized a rally to save the asphalt rectangle from the city’s plan to cover it in turf to accommodate youth sports leagues that were going to be displaced once the city shut down East River Park for three years. The day before the protest, the city announced it would leave the asphalt as is.
On Monday, Zhu reacted to the news on his Instagram story, confirming that NYC Parks had been in contact with skaters, and expressing concern over the amount of time it could take the new asphalt to be set.
“Don’t be TOO alarmed,” Zhu told his followers on social media. “The parks warned me this would have to happen. Of course the main risk is that the asphalt could take years to set, or be soft/not suitable for skating, but this isn’t designed to kick the skaters out intentionally.”
Though it’s unclear where all of the DIY skate features currently at the park will go while it’s being renovated. Mendenhall said he was concerned about the three months the renovation will take, but had faith the new version of the park would retain its unique skating culture regardless.
“All of these obstacles have been here for varying amounts of time, and some will get phased out as new ones are brought in. But there has never been a time where there's been nothing,” Mendenhall said. “The people that skate here are like some of the most interesting people I've ever met, so I think whatever happens to it, it won't lose its personality. It'll just be a different version of itself.”