Earlier this year, the Parks Department announced that it would have to turf over the asphalt covering the northwest quadrant of Tompkins Square Park in order to accommodate youth sports leagues that will be displaced once the city shuts down East River Park for three years. Skateboarders started a petition to save the spot, known as Tompkins TF, and a rally promoted by East Village Councilmember Carlina Rivera was planned for this past Saturday. Before the rally happened, the Parks Department said they had changed course.
"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," Crystal Howard, a Parks Department spokesperson, said in a statement.
Turfing will still take place at four other sites: LaGuardia Bathhouse, St. Vartans, Tanahey, and Robert Moses.
"We remain committed to supporting the hundreds of children who play baseball and soccer on the East River Park fields when the park is closed for reconstruction, and will identify a location to replace our initial selection of Tompkins Square Park to ensure that five sites will receive synthetic turf fields where local youth can play," Howard said. "Planned enhancements are part of a holistic plan to provide alternative recreational space for the community at large during the reconstruction of East River Park."
The city's plan to raise East River Park by eight feet will cost $1.45 billion, and has been met with skepticism by residents and elected officials, who have asked why the city's Department of Design and Construction can't complete the construction in phases, rather than close the entire 45-acre park for more than three years.
DDC has said they are working on finding ways to prevent a total closure, while the City Council is expected to vote on the plan later this month.
“I’m so happy that the Parks Department recognized that this isn’t just a blacktop," Councilmember Rivera said in a statement. "I hope this respect for the community we saw today is a sign of improved communication from our city’s agencies when it comes to other matters related to the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project."
This post has been updated to include a comment from the councilmember.