Update — September 20: Construction is set to begin on October 2nd now.
Update – August 31: Construction is now set to begin in mid-November instead.
As per a Parks Department source, the construction is set to begin on September 1, 2023, with the process expected to last three months: two for construction, and another for asphalt to cure.
A diagram of how the new version of the park is expected to look is below:
Most notable to our purposes: they are removing the two dugouts, adding way more benches at the Avenue A side of the park, in addition to even more on the E. 10th Street side, and even more at the interior 9th Street side near the trees — which will no doubt reconfigure conceptions of premier bench seating and cafeteria rules in the park after reconstruction.
The benches will be these fuckin’ things though:
There’s also a track being painted on the floor around the inside perimeter of the park, though we have confirmed it is only a paint job, and not a surface different than the new pavement itself (i.e. it’s not Astro Turf 🤮) It will be a shock to the system in terms of the park’s Feng Shui, but skateboarders have adjusted to way worse changes.
The fate of the ramps, rails and boxes can obviously be decided later in the summer, though it stands to reason the contractors are going to toss them once construction begins unless we opt to save and relocate them. (Not 12th & A because that shit won’t last a day there.)
A few people have asked, “Can we do anything?!” a la the Save Tompkins campaign from summer 2019, but this is not a fundamental restructuring of how the park is used by the public like it was when they wanted to cover it in soft Astro Turf. The pavement hasn’t been redone in ~30 years, and petitioning the city to not fix a deteriorating sports field when the time has come is like petitioning them to not fix a pot hole.
We’ve asked people who were around when the park was last repaved, and nobody can put a firm date on it, though most range between ’92 and ’95.
When we interviewed Mel Stones about her 1990s New York photo book, That’s A Crazy One, in 2017, she said this about her snap of Tompkins, which was actually the cover of the book:
“It’s Hamilton [Harris], Ivan [Perez] and Justin [Pierce] skating Tompkins in the rain when they had just re-done the court. It’s the cover of the book. I love this picture because it captures the essence of street style then. Their wheels were the size of quarters, and their boards were water-logged and fucked up anyway. It wraps up how wild and playful everything was then compared to now.
Tompkins had just reopened to people. You had the riots in the eighties and you couldn’t go inside the park. I remember everyone being psyched when they first made Tompkins smooth, after they cleaned up the park and you could get in there. Everyone hung out at Washington Square, then Astor, and then my friend High, who I did the book with, had an apartment on St. Mark’s and A. Her house was a meet-up spot and that’s where everyone ended up. Nobody had cell phones, so you’d find people doing that route.”
Mel cited the dates of the her photography in that project as taking place between 1991 and 1994, so it had to have been between then.
Enjoy the summer ❤️