meet the young skaters trying to save tompkins square park
The iconic East Village hangout is under threat by the NYC Parks Department. Photographer Tasmin Meyer Ersahin documents the community who call it home.
Photo by Tasmin Meyer Ersahin.
On the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, along Avenue A and 10th Street, there lies a piece of asphalt known by locals as the "TF," or Training Facility. For decades, it has been home to neighborhood youth and skateboarders alike, who use the open space to try out new tricks on makeshift plywood ramps or simply, to hang out with their friends. However, in May, it was revealed that the NYC Parks department approved a plan to cover the TF with synthetic turf — making it impossible to skate there.
"This part of Tompkins is an integral part of our identity as a neighborhood and community. Beyond its importance to skateboarders, it serves as a melting pot for all walks of life," skater Adam Zhu says. "To install AstroTurf here would completely uproot and disrupt the way thousands have utilized this space for generations."
The gentrification of The Village, which has historically been a haven for artists, musicians, and counterculture youths, is nothing new. Nor is the loss of old New York sites like this one. But in this case, locals found out about the city's plan a month after it was already approved. Now, they're fighting back. Adam Zhu created a petition to #SaveTompkins in June, which at the time of writing, has nearly reached it's goal of 25k signatures, and those who call the park home have taken to social media to share their story about what makes it so special.
"Calling all EAST VILLAGE business owners and residents. The city is planning on synthetic turfing the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park unofficially known as the TF (training facility)," Chloë Sevigny said on Instagram. "Please help save our city and the color of the EV by keeping it asphalt."
William Strobeck, who filmed Supreme's last two skate videos, shared footage of kids skating in Tompkins in the 80s. "People from all walks of life have been going to Tompkins as a meeting ground for years... It’s like the only place on this side of town that isn't gentrified," he wrote. "I’ve been kickin' it there since 2002 and met some of the best people in my life in that area."
While there are skate parks throughout the city, this sort of open space is hard to come by and the community that was built here is frankly, invaluable. Tasmin Meyer Ersahin photographed the local skaters and creative youth who call the park home, and they tell i-D why the Tompkins Square asphalt is worth saving.
“Tompkins holds more significance than just skateboarding. It’s a place of cultural significance to people in the East Village. I’ve meet people who are closer than family to me from Tompkins. It’s irreplaceable.” -King Abdo
"This is a place where outcasts can feel like they belong. Skating is a language that anyone can learn and use to find a community that won’t judge. Tompkins is a home where countless people have learned this language." -Ajani Russel
"No place can match the energy like at Tompkins. It is too pure." -Danielle Melendez
"If it weren’t for Tompkins, I don’t think I would’ve stuck with skating. It gave me an environment where I felt safe and encouraged to improve and keep skating." - Bhaji
"This part of Tompkins is an integral part of our identity as a neighborhood and community. Beyond its importance to skateboarders, it serves as a melting pot for all walks of life. To install AstroTurf here would completely uproot and disrupt the way thousands have utilized this space for generations."
“I just started skating a couple weeks ago and I love to come here with my friends and meet new people. This is a place where I can just relax and practice after work and it’s the same for many who skate here at Tompkins. Would be a shame to take away these opportunities and memories.“
"Tompkins has always been the home for skaters in the East Village. Without it a huge piece of the area’s culture would be missing."
"Tompkins is a place of immense social value and inclusion, not just for skateboarders but for anybody disenfranchised by pop culture or organized sports. I have yet to experience another place this effective at serving as a common ground to bring people together from any gender, race, religion, age, or social circle. To simply tell us to take it to the skatepark isn’t an option for people trying to get the basics of skateboarding down. To this day this blacktop is called TF by the locals, aka training facility.” -Brendan Burdzinski
"There are few places misfits can go to and feel welcomed. Tompkins accepted me when nobody else would." -Lukas Kubeja
"It’s a place where like-minded individuals and people of all kinds to come and enjoy themselves." -@hempoilproducts
"I’ve been skating at Tompkins almost every day since I began high school and I’ve met countless people there that have become friends of mine. I’ve met young kids there learning their first tricks that have grown up to be incredibly talented. So talented that they can even make a living off of skateboarding. It would be a shame to take Tompkins away from all these people." -Arsun Sorrenti