The Battle for Tompkins Square Park: Skateboarders vs. Artificial Turf

For decades, New Yorkers have skated on asphalt in the East Village spot. Now the Parks Department may cover it with artificial turf.

Comments: 26

  1. The roller rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park is underutilized during the week. Maybe the hockey players can go there. Quick subway commute on A to High Street or F to York Street

  2. Traditions and personalities are key to keeping neighborhoods intact, lest we all start serving the needs of the latest crops of transplants. God forbid I start seeing lacrosse. People also play basketball on that field.

  3. My son is an avid skateboarder, but he is also a baseball player on both a youth league travel team and a NYC public middle school team. His middle school is a few blocks from Thompkins Square Park. We love the park, asphalt and all. But objectively speaking, the city's young baseball players are in more desperate need of playing fields, than skateboarders are in need of asphalt. The East River Park renovations will take years and without new fields numerous downtown NYC Public School teams will be traveling to the Bronx for 4PM afterschool games this Spring season. I hope this clarifies a possible misconception transmitted by the article that the Parks Dept is being pressured for more fields solely by "Little League" teams with privately raised funds. It's really our public school teams who are in most dire need of theses fields.

  4. @Arnold B. For the life of me I can’t understand why Parks is spending billions to raise East River Park 10’ for a doomsday scenario that may never happen, after having just finished spending hundreds of million renovating it. Closing it for four years is unconscionable.

  5. @Patrick I hear ya. You're not the only one who is frustrated. It's a very controversial project. But according to the Parks Dept Commissioner, the river is projected to rise two and a half feet in 30 years, so raising the park is the only way to save it.

  6. @Arnold B. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is never a good idea.

  7. For a city that's in the midst of trying to fight climate change and be more sustainable, this seems to be a move in the exact opposite direction. Astroturf is toxic and terrible for the environment. Terrible choice. And also - there are tons of fields across the city, give the skaters a place to congregate and skate. Its ALSO a youth sport.

  8. @Kahnotcca Not all artificial turf is "Astro Turf." And not all artificial turf is toxic. None of the turf fields we've played baseball on in Manhattan are Astro Turf, so I highly doubt that is the plan for Thompkins Square Park. To be clear, I'm not sure what experience you have of youth baseball, but there are not "tons" of baseball fields across the city, as you say. Most are in terrible disrepair and badly maintained. In fact, more new skateboarding parks have been built in the past ten years, than baseball fields. But why play favorites here? After all, more healthy recreational facilities for all sports is a great thing. Let's not let the NY Times pit one sport against another and erroneously turn this into a rich sport vs. poor sport issue. In fact, as my son and his teammates will testify to, playing baseball on a public middle school team is completely free, whereas skateboarding can be pretty expensive in terms of gear.

  9. Last time I looked, virtually the entire city is paved. As far as decades of skateboarders in Tompkins park, in the seventies you couldn’t go into it without being mugged in the daytime.

  10. Come on. I lived on East 1Oth Street in the 70s. I went to the park. Children played in the park. I was never mugged.

  11. @Paulie it’s 2019 why are you bringing up the 70s to try and smear [email protected]

  12. Slipping further down the rabbit hole? This is just what NYC needs, more terrain for skateboarders and street hockey players. to supplement the suicidal bike messengers that have turned the streets into dodgeball tournaments.

  13. @JAS3rd Tompkins square park has been used by skateboarders for DECADES.

  14. @JAS3rd: Sure... those people don't matter, they ain't bankers, right? but please explain how replacing their play space with toxic plastic, carcinogenic glue and chopped up used tires is better...?

  15. @JAS3rd It sounds like Florida is the place for you.

  16. Skateboarding is free, the board itself costs anywhere from $50-150 for a complete set up. A beginner takes a while to go through boards, and a replacement deck runs $25-50 if you keep the trucks and wheels the same. The cost of entry pales in comparison to organized team sports so little Johnny gets an “activity” to put on his college application resume. Let the skateboarders be. All I see here is increasing gentrification and attacking poor and working class people (especially youth) having a low cost outlet for their energy and creativity. There’s a million and one ball fields, and few skateparks, especially those dedicated to street-style skateboarding and welcoming to beginners. If they must have a ball field there... only use up part of the space instead of the whole thing. If you don’t want skateboarders getting in the way of pedestrians, especially while trying flat ground tricks, they need somewhere to go that’s safe for all.

  17. Why would a city want to stop youths from self-organizing a relatively cheap way for them to stay active and healthy?

  18. I think that "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'" is the problem. I suspect that persons who grew up in New York at the same time I did in Philadelphia (think Presidents Kennedy and Johnson) remember when pickup games of baseball and touch football were played on asphalt schoolyards and residential streets, where the Dodge was 3d base or a goal line. How many children today can organize a team game without the help of coaches and highly organized leagues? How many kids are stressed out by those very coaches and leagues? Finally, how many single, two-job parents' children get to play in these leagues? I love watching skateboarders and BMX bikers do their things in our town's skate park, their spirit not deadened by humorless adults supervising them and dreaming of scholarships. This is more proof that DiBlasio loves to talk about poor people, but hates doing anything for them. Give New York's kids and teens a break— leave the place paved (with asphalt that allows water to pass through).

  19. Our building is on the Park. The skateboarders are always polite, not intimidating and quiet. They are also rebels from the adult -directed conventional sports that produce 'model' citizens. The hockey players seem to manage well with temporary barriers when they occasionally play. This is much closer to the history and ethos of the Park (and the area) and should be preserved.

  20. back in the 50's and 60's when I grew up We were always in the park with a glove and a bat playing ball. You don't see kids getting together and chhosing up a game today. So why discourage kids who grab a skateboard and head off to the park? I still live in the inner city. I only see kids playing basketball and some playing soccer all un organized. kids just playing together. I never see kids going to the park with a bat and a ball looking to play a choose up game. I have two parks within walking distance of my home. We should encourage kids to play unorganized sports not make it harder for them.

  21. I think its underestimated how valuable space like this is. Skating around the city can be fun but it poses a bunch of hazards. Having a space that is meant for skateboarders is valuable. The best memories of my childhood were hanging out at the skatepark with my friends. I'm glad I had that space because not only was it fun but I didn't have to worry about getting kicked out, jumped, or harassed.

  22. Let them skate!

  23. This is an attempt by Corporate New York(read real estate industry) to suck the life out of the unique, divergent East Village an make it safe for gentrification. And the Parks Department is leading the charge in this case. The Parks Dept. can't even maintain the toilets(rated the worst in the city) yet they want to pave over the most active area of the park. What's their objective: to get rid of the locals for the monied gentry? When you ask yourself why this dumb move is being made you have to put it in context of the Death-of-The-City-de Blasio administration. Yes, it's about real estate. The East Village has weak representation. Ruin-The-EV-Carlina Rivera, council person could stop the repaving. But she won't. At every turn she has betrayed her community from rezoning to East River Park. And we residents of the EV become the victims of ONE PARTY RULE with no alternative to fight except to grab a headline here and there. We recently lost the BoysClub at 10th and A(across from the (TSP). It was there for 117 years serving the youth of the community... turning boys into productive men. Hey, even the great Bert Lahr learned to box there. The asphalt playground was the last opportunity for the youth of the community to develop physical skills and learn team play. Now that is being taken away from them. Sad how greed and treachery can ruin the lives of so many and for what? FOR WHAT?

  24. This was a softball/baseball area for decades, since long before skateboarding was invented. The only reason its use for these sports diminished is that skateboarders gradually started using more and more of it, keeping it for a niche activity, and making it impossible to play ball there, and To play ball you had to fight them to move, and eventually they stopped moving. There are many more ballplayers than skateboarders. It should be returned to its original purpose --there are many who want to play ball there -- and a skateboard area established elsewhere.

  25. @DG That's a valid point. I remember 7 years ago when R.A. Dickey came to Thompkins Square to play wiffle ball with the neighborhood peeps. And yet I am reluctant to take sides here. The city is ever-changing and should try to accommodate everyone. We shouldn't have to battle each other for the right to play. Our energies are better spent challenging the encroachment of real estate developers and institutions like NYU who have swallowed up much of downtown.

  26. There's a great skate park on the border of Chinatown and City Hall area, quickly reachable by board. There's nowhere else for the leagues to play. The inevitable comments about "gentrification" don't apply here: Neither group is especially affluent.