The 10 Greatest Tompkins Obstacles of the 2010s

Ten years in New York is a century anywhere else.

Ten years inside the asphalt baseball diamond at E. 9th Street and Avenue A is an eon or two.

In ten years, skateparks sprouted up all over the city. Autumn Skateshop closed. 7-11, Target and Starbucks opened. iPods became iPhones. Slicky Boy became Slicky Man. The city re-paved Avenue A, and they even had a sick joke about covering Tompkins’ holy ground with astro turf. You know how that went.

As natural resources are extinguished and the earth barrels towards oblivion, our future will depend on how well we can sustain on what is reusable. The T.F. — and the lessons it taught us in repurposing the discarded remnants of human consumption — will reveal itself to have been a crash course for the apocalypse.

While the rest of the East Village is bitching about their cricket, egg and cheese bagels, we’ll be prepped in our chain-linked fallout shelter, waiting for the end.

Here is the final and most personal piece of our 2010s in review coverage: the following are the ten obstacles that told the story of Tompkins Square Park in the 2010s.

10. The Cone(s) (Various)

The cones are the meat and potatoes of T.F. obstacles. The bread and butter. The conversation with a stranger about the weather. When nothing else made itself available, the cones were there.

They weren’t the sexiest things you could skate, but they were dependable. And after you’ve had your heart broken enough times, who’s to say that dependability isn’t sexy?

9. Whatever the Fuck This Was (2017)

Vincent Van Gogh took his own life, having barely sold any of his now world-reknown paintings, at the age of 37.

Franz Kafka died of tuberculosis, largely unpublished, at 40.

Thrasher still hasn’t given Tiago S.O.T.Y, but lucky for us, they still have ~50-70 (100?) years left in his life to make amends for this oversight.

Sometimes, it is not about making an impact right then, at that very moment.

This obstacle may have proved too abstract for the simple-minded skaters at Tompkins on this August afternoon. However, this isn’t about them. This is about the toddler in the corner that day — maybe he hasn’t even asked his parents for a skateboard yet — but he’ll remember it. He’ll never forget this inspirational work of human ingenuity when he’s skating at Tompkins in 2037, high out of his fucking mind on moon rocks, making magic out of nothing.

Boards will still somehow only cost $55 with grip.

8. The Bookcase (2013)

Though this discarded corner bookcase would no longer hold the tales of Keats and Kardashian, our wallies would tell their own stories in the spring of 2013.

Tompkins is a judgement-free zone for failed furniture, and at 9.8 million tons per year, that’s a lot of failure. To be repurposed here is a shot at redemption and an open critique of shoddy modern craftsmanship, all at once.

7. The I-Beam (2016)

In many ways, the I-Beam elevated what the Bookcase began. We had all seen enough Daewon parts to know that furniture was an easy double for a skate spot. Except furniture was a finished product; the I-Beam deconstructed that idea. An I-Beam is almost always thought of as a piece of something else. Tompkins allowed it to shine on its own.

6. The Final 12th & A Bench (2013)

One of the most disruptive events of the decade was the demise of 12th & A. 2013 would be the last sight of a Straight Fucking Ledge™ in the East Village, and we would all pivot to become full-time Tompkins skaters after that.

At the time of 12th & A’s destruction, a kind soul was able to rescue its final bench and move it into hospice care at T.F. We gave it a good life until its final day, when it would die as the last in a bloodline of recycled plastic benches indigenous to E. 12th Street.

5. The Spring ’18 Collection (2018)

It stands to reason that the city will inevitably crush up all the skateparks, and use their cement to fill a seawall preventing Manhattan island from being swallowed whole. And when that happens, you can expect what takes their place to look a bit like this fully realized rendition of Tompkins last spring. The “skatepark” of the future will be a smorgasbord of take-what-you-can-get junk that isn’t being used as a too-little-too-late barrier between us and the inevitable.

And y’all thought “training facility” was a joke ;)

4. Autumn’s Final Box (2011-2012)

When Autumn closed its doors on New Year’s Eve 2011, it gave the T.F. a parting gift. This box was a good luck charm: it coincided with the warmest winter of the past decade, and lasted far longer than any of its contemporaries. It was very much in the Scott Schwartzian tradition of Tompkins obstacles, and in more ways than one, the end of an era. Once it was gone, T.F. obstacles shifted towards more impressionistic tendencies. This would become the dominant theme there to this day.

3. ??? (Various)

On its own, it’s a nipple.

Doubled up, it becomes Saturn.

Don’t see that? Totally fine! Who am I to tell you what a “spot” is?

It is here that Tompkins obstacles graduated from categorization. What was once a space for rails and ramps became open to anyone’s interpretation. T.F. New Wave had arrived.

2. N.Y. Ramp Co. – The Remix (2017)

Throughout the second half of the decade, N.Y. Ramp Co. furnished Tompkins with an assortment of ramps, rails and boxes that harked back on the park’s first golden era, nearly twenty years ago.

But an unknown local artist made this specific box truly sublime by mashing together two schools of thought at once — both the park’s classicist roots and its avant-garde present — by wedging a sheetmetal sign between its lip and a trash barrel underneath.

1. The Tombstone (2014)

To love a Tompkins obstacle is to accept that it — like everything else in this life — is temporary. The sun might be four minutes away from setting, and it might be five degrees colder than you’d like it to be, but if you leave now, you must acknowledge that it might be the last time you ever see that obstacle.

Tomorrow morning? Gone. In the back of a Parks Department truck. Headed for a landfill. Dead. Finito. Done. C’est mort. Ain’t none of this shit promised.

The Tombstone was the closest thing we had to a permanent fixture at Tompkins these past ten years, if only for the fact that it was too heavy to easily remove. It was a hint at T.F. immortality, but any enlightened Tompkins skater knows not to bet against the natural order.

Ironic that the decade’s best obstacle would be nicknamed after a marker of death.

12 Comments

  1. “He’ll never forget this inspirational work of human ingenuity when he’s skating at Tompkins in 2037, high out of his fucking mind on moon rocks, making magic out of nothing”
    Really love this list & can’t wait to see what the future holds for the TF.

  2. Surprised that the guy who always corrects typos on here didn’t catch that it said “classist” when it was supposed to say “classicist.” Anyway, it’s fixed ;)

  3. major s/o to NYRampCo guy for sponsoring, building, and hauling obstacles to/from TF for everyone to skate — those ppl are the real MVPs

  4. Jesse’s Natas spin on the trash can lid (#3) dressed as JP from Grandma’s boy, might be one of the greatest uses of a tompkins obstacle

  5. “As natural resources are extinguished and the earth barrels towards oblivion, our future will depend on how well we can sustain on what is reusable. The T.F. — and the lessons it taught us in repurposing the discarded remnants of human consumption — will reveal itself to have been a crash course for the apocalypse.”

    ★★★★★ god bless u QS


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