New York magazine
Skateboarder Image Credit: New York magazine
Skateboarder Image Credit: New York magazine

Tribes: Asphalt Activism

The saving of a skate park in Tompkins Square.

Stella Bugbee

Everybody in New York has at least one place in the city that haunts them, but some parts of downtown seem genuinely possessed. A stretch of asphalt in Tompkins Square Park, known as the “Training Facility,” is flat and full of cracks, and if you didn’t know better, you might assume the community wanted some capital improvements. But the neglect is part of the appeal for skaters who just want a place to learn tricks. Competitions there date back to 1989, and the spot was a backdrop in the 1995 movie Kids; its popularity grew after 9/11, when security around the city’s public areas tightened. Now it is beloved by a new generation of rising skate stars, and pros like Alexis Sablone credit it with being one of the best places for female skaters to feel comfortable enough to try the sport.

Last month, while reading a community newsletter, Fanny Cohen, a student and friend to many of the skateboarders in the area, learned about a plan to replace TF with synthetic turf. The city intended to turn it into a place for kids to play sports while the nearby East River Park is ripped up (as part of a plan to protect the city from flooding). A 22-year-old artist and local skater named Adam Zhu, who grew up on 12th Street, started the hashtag #savetompkins on Instagram as well as a petition to protest the plan, which quickly attracted 32,000 signatures. The post got the skaters a meeting with officials in the basement of Tompkins Square Library, whe

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