skateboarders rallying to save Tompkins Square Park from astroturf conversion
A flood protection and mitigation project that will take Manhattan's East River Park out of commission for three and a half years will also displace many youth sport teams that practice there. To make up for the loss of space, The Department of Parks and Recreation plans to put down astroturf to replace asphalt in at least five locations, to make way for permitted games of baseball, softball, and more. One of their planned sites to turf has drawn considerable ire: the northwest corner of Tomkins Square Park, where a patch of asphalt has long been used as an unofficial skate park and meeting hub of the local skateboarding community.
The New York Times gave some backstory on "The Battle for Tompkins Square Park":
“We don’t have anything against asphalt,” said Liam Kavanagh, the Parks Department’s first deputy commissioner. “There’s always going to be need for asphalt spaces in our system. But when you have a situation where you are balancing literally thousands of hours of permitted youth sports that don’t have a place to go, we have to prioritize youth sports.”
The Parks Department prioritizes the permitted sports, Mr. Kavanagh said, because of the amount of time groups like the Little League spend organizing and raising funds from the private sector for this “real New York City tradition.”
The skateboarders said they cannot skate on artificial turf. Sidewalks and streets are legal to skate on, they added, but not necessarily safe for themselves or pedestrians.
East Village local and skateboarder Adam Zhu started a petition early this summer to "Save Tompkins Square Asphalt." It currently has over 30,000 signatures, and the petition text reads:
The city has approved a plan to cover the northwest corner of Tompkins Sq park with synthetic turf. This plan was approved without support from the community. The area of the park they would be renovating has a historical and sacred importance to skateboarders and other community members who would be excluded from the new facility. Hopefully this petition will reflect the interests of the people who use the park the most! Lets make it clear: we don't want our corner of the park altered!
Next up, Zhu is organizing a rally to save the asphalt, which happens on Saturday September 7 at 1 PM, in the park's north-west corner. More from his Instagram:
RALLY TO SAVE TOMPKINS 🗣 For generations, Tompkins has been a safe haven for skateboarders and other marginalized activities. It serves as a melting pot for all walks of life and is an integral part of our identity as a neighborhood and community. The city now plans to install AstroTurf there to prioritize permitted sports, which will destroy the way our community has utilized this park for decades. Please join me on Saturday September seventh in the north west corner of the park to show the city what this park means to us! • 1PM •
Please repost and share this. I also encourage you to take ownership of this cause. Make your own flyers with the same info! Print them and paste them up everywhere! Get business owners involved! Anything is helpful! Let’s let them know we aren’t budging on this issue and we are here to stay!
A final decision about the fate of Tompkins' asphalt lot has yet to be made.