Next year, the Parks Department will reconstruct the multipurpose courts in Tompkins Square Park along Avenue A and 10th Street, adding various amenities, including a two-lane seal-coated walking loop, and new asphalt.
City officials unveiled the plans during Community Board 3's Parks, Recreation, Waterfront, & Resiliency Committee virtual meeting this past Thursday (as we first reported here). Max Goodstein, a landscape architect with the Parks Department, provided a brief overview.
The space, he said, has a lot of "asphalt structural damage," and it "needs to be replaced and repaired. And the only way to do that is to take all the asphalt down to the sub base and put new asphalt down."
Other additions: new benches, a kickball court, a high-low fountain that kids and adults can use simultaneously, and three new basketball backstops at the eastern end, replacing the ones that always seem to be damaged.
"The start date hasn't been finalized yet," he said. "It's going to take three months, and we should definitely be done by next fall."
The presentation was more of an informational session, and no vote was required by the CB3 committee. The reconstruction is moving forward.
So what does this mean for the skaters on the lot (aka TF), hallowed ground where generations have used this space dating to the 1980s? (It has been called "the last great meet-up spot for skateboarders and their friends in New York.")
One resident commented during the meeting: "I'm really concerned that the young people in this neighborhood are being pushed out of this famous, much-loved, much-used skating space. You even opened it with pictures of skaters. What are you going to do about this?"
Goodstein said that he skated here in his youth and has had conversations with the skaters about the pending changes.
Another Parks rep, Steve Simon, chief of staff to the Manhattan Borough Commissioner, chimed in at this point.
"Max and I went there, and we personally spoke to a group of them, and they were very much in support of what we intended to do," he said. "They want to have an improved surface. And what we're doing here is by no means going to displace them. [The skaters said that] they appreciate what we're doing. And the only thing they really wanted from us ... a fountain and a slightly different variation on the layout of the benches. So we're gonna accommodate them. They were pretty thrilled with what we're planning to do and with the fact that we went out there and just spoke to them."
It's unclear just how thrilled the skaters will be with the final product next fall — after the space will likely be under construction for the prime summer months. It's also unclear what might happen with the various ramps and rails the skaters use.
As you may recall, in September 2019, the skateboarding community came together via a petition started by Adam Zhu and signed by 33,000-plus people to show their support for keeping the multipurpose courts free of synthetic turf... plans apparently only known to residents who attended a Community Board 3 committee meeting in May 2019. Adding artificial turf would have rendered the space useless for skateboarders and street hockey players, among other groups.
However, less than 24 hours before a much-publicized rally was to take place, the city announced that it would no longer cover the space in turf, originally proposed to make up for the amenities lost during the years-long gutting of East River Park.
"Tompkins Square Park has served as the epicenter of NYC skateboard culture for decades. As such, we have decided to leave the area previously proposed for synthetic in the park as is and will not move forward with creating a synthetic turf area there," Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard said in a statement to Patch at the time.
And the reconstructed layout of the space may make this the end of the epicenter of NYC skateboard culture.
Previously on EV Grieve: