An Introduction to Tompkins Square Park: Second Edition

September 13th, 2013 | 5:26 am | Features & Interviews | 9 Comments

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Photo by Emilio Cuilan

In 2011, as an effort to assist freshmen new to New York, we published an introductory guide to Tompkins Square Park, the most popular “street” spot in the city and frequent victim of misinformation. Much like the textbooks you guys pay $900 a semester for, the 2011 text is in need of a new edition. New York skateboarding has changed these past two years, affecting the T.F. and forcing it to adapt to a new environment. We didn’t just scramble the pagination to squeeze an extra hundred bucks from you. No, unlike the textbook industry, we’re really trying to help.

According to recent reports, America is starting to understand the futility of a college degree. Sure, maybe ten-percent of degrees end up being useful, but given that skateboarders major in things that they could learn from YouTube tutorials, theirs often belong in the trash. If you’re a college attendee, there is a good chance that you will still be considering unpaid internships at 24 with a five-figure debt reminder in your mailbox each month. There’s no reason to make things worse by spending your college years as an outcast from the T.F. Make it easy by following these simple rules, and Tompkins will bless you with an education that no money could buy.


Autumn is gone and the Parks Department is hellbent on destroying any obstacle that gets left in the park, so the traffic rules that once governed a T.F. bound by a box are irrelevant. The terrain is rarely more sophisticated than the top metal nipple of a trashcan, and those do not require horizontal lanes.

Two developments have reshaped Tompkins in the past few years. One is the aforementioned demise of Autumn. With no storage unit to house obstacles, the T.F. returned to its roots as solely a flatground destination. However, skateboarders are creatures of habit, and hundreds are still programmed to flock there out of mere routine.

The other reason is the the opening of the L.E.S. Park, the best skatepark in New York and a ten-minute skate away. The park breeds fourteen-year-olds who can skate like this, which implies that much of the younger generation will grow up disinterested in Tompkins. They’ll be better off on the board, but perhaps worse off at mind and heart. For them, the T.F. will be “where the old guys hang out.” Some of those old guys, especially those who are still good at skating, are deprogramming themselves from an antiquated T.F-inclusive routine. They are adapting to the new New York by frequenting skateparks in the morning and avoiding Tompkins altogether. (See: Ted Barrow’s 9 A.M. L.E.S. Park Instagram posts.)

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What does this mean? If the once guaranteed way to become shunned from civilized T.F. society was to skate against the three imaginary lanes, then the Tompkins of skatepark-ized New York has one rule: don’t be good.

The T.F. is no longer for people who are good. Go to the skatepark if you are good at skateboarding. Being the dude who “practices” three-foot-high switch flips or tries nosegrind nollie flips on the rare day there’s a box present is now the surefire way to induce cringes from the ever-so-critical green bench. With all the skateparks around, there is no reason for you to be at T.F. if you know how to skate well*. By doing so, you are stomping on the souls of the park’s main population, which primos on a switch flip at least twice each day (or doesn’t skate at all…see Point H below.)

*First generation T.F-ers are exempt from this rule. They were there when it did not apply, and the same remains true today.

We are adamant supporters of the fact that New York is not this mean place where nobody is helpful. At the T.F. though…it’s better to not ask too many questions, lest you be sucked into some vortex wondering if Slicky Boy is really Shawn Powers’ dad. Familiarize yourself with these amenities, some of which have changed for this edition.

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A) The benches are the same as they ever were. Just don’t sit on them if you’re going to eventually get up and show off.

B) Australian skateboarders have contributed to notable T.F. landmarks like “Ohh Wee Volume 1,” but recent public opinion of Australians visiting New York has been low. Americans are sensitive to such issues given their own awful reputation abroad, and have responded accordingly to those who might be just be worse travelers than even themselves. This is particularly prevalent among New Yorkers who work in the hospitality industry. (Fun Fact: Room service is one of the fastest growing skater jobs in New York.) Onetime relevant T.F. institution, The Green Diamond, has set itself up as sympathetic to the Australian plight and carved out these underused benches as a safe haven for Aussie expats.

C) Surfers have wave reports and thanks to Instagram, skateboarders have the #tfreport to check out current conditions. (“The TF Report” is a concept adapted into the social media age from Pat O’Dell’s mid-2000s Epicly Later’d blog.)

D) Though Tompkins Square Deli is now run by what analysts refer to as “upscale Muslims,” this is the nearest place to obtain water, Gatorade, beer, and cigarettes.


If you are too lazy to go on a store run, aspiring rap star, Slicky Boy, will go on a run for you in exchange for $1 USD.


G) Can barely make rent but still buy $4 coffee? Head over to 9th Street Espresso…on 10th Street.

H) All degenerate alcoholics who have grown tired of pretending to enjoy skateboarding can be found at Doc Holiday’s.

I) Contrary to what was once considered fact, research has concluded that the large tree on the south side of the T.F. does not render weed smokers invisible. However, if by some miracle there happens to be a box or rail at the T.F., please drag it behind the tree at the end of the day so it may last an extra 24 hours.

J) If you’re poor, Mamani’s is still the only place on the block to obtain dollar slices. Get a job, man.

K) Nino’s was once the main destination for non-dollar slice pizza and Italian ices in the summer. Given a recent renovation, it may now be run by “upscale Italians.”


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11B became the go-to destination for pizza costing more than a dollar during Nino’s sabbatical.

M) San Loco is your nearest low grade Mexican food substitute, though some park patrons make the daunting journey to the more authentic taco truck on E. 2nd Street and Avenue A.

N) By now, most know not to use the public restroom inside the park for disposal of bodily waste. The string of restaurants on Avenue A between 9th and 10th not listed above may allow you to use their facilities.

O) Whoa, do you really have a job? Westville is the most frequented nearby brunch destination for bourgeoisie skateboarders.

P) Though spotty at times, the “attwifi” network still provides Tompkins with free WiFi for the Europeans and people on Boost Mobile.

Q) Break your board? With no Autumn around, you’re going to have to skate to E. 3rd Street and Bowery to pay Chief “Emerging Black Celebirty” Keith a visit at DQM.

R) If you’re good at skateboarding, please leave the park immediately and skate as far south as you can until you hit the L.E.S. Park. Thanks.

Oh, and if you just started college, drop out unless you’re going to be a doctor or an engineer.


Comment by Jacob
  • Some of this really hit home for me. Thank you fro writing this.

    September 13, 2013 @ 1:47 pm
  • Comment by will
  • “not good at skating”, when i eventually visit new york tompkins will be my first stop.

    September 13, 2013 @ 2:49 pm
  • Comment by AnHero
  • Gold

    September 13, 2013 @ 2:52 pm
  • Comment by George Costanza
  • interesting points

    September 13, 2013 @ 3:36 pm
  • Comment by tinder boss
  • Can’t knock slicky boy’s hustle.

    September 13, 2013 @ 7:42 pm
  • Comment by Marla Pennington
  • I have a giant square of recently re-paved asphalt across the street from my house complete with jersey barriers. I recruited a small gang of groms to help pour some ‘crete. Hopefully this will become Tomkins West. It’s in the worst hood in Denver. All we need are unreasonably small benches to sit on and yuppie softball players to haze…

    September 14, 2013 @ 11:25 pm
  • Comment by autumndave
  • I still have some old stock at from the shop. Maybe I can hang out by the dugout with no shirt and howl about how I used to own Autumn. I can also double a box as my bed for safe keeping.
    Boards pre 2011- $15
    my old shirts – 5
    photos of Paulgar – $1
    Box rental – ?????

    September 15, 2013 @ 12:56 pm
  • Comment by mallgrabmongo
  • what does tf mean

    September 15, 2013 @ 5:22 pm
  • Comment by Drake
  • Means Alien Workshop circa 2002.

    September 15, 2013 @ 11:38 pm
  • Leave a comment