NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A turf war is brewing in the East Village.
Skateboarders are taking on the city after learning it wants to turn a popular skate park into a turf field for organized sports.
Skateboarders told CBS2’s Dick Brennan on Monday the skate park has been like a sanctuary to them for decades, a place to escape the busy streets.
But all of that could soon change.
The Department of Parks and Recreation wants to cover the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park with turf for organized sports. The planned changes are part of the $1.45 billion reconstruction project of the East River park for flood protection and improvements.
Since it could be closed for four years, the park’s softball and baseball teams will have no place to go, so the city wants them to share Tompkins.
“I understand you got skateboarders and everything, but you’re supposed to spread the love and share,” East Village resident Alexander Hernandez said.
While those kids would be happy to have a new place to play, skateboarders who have been on the site for years say they’re being pushed out.
It’s much more of an unofficial skate park. There are no ramps or handrails on the asphalt field, but according to posted park rules they’re not breaking any laws by skating there.
Skateboarders are now circulating a petition, asking that Tompkins Square Park be left alone. Already, more than 30,000 people have signed it.
“It’s a travesty, I mean, really, because a lot of kids who grew up skateboarding, that actually made a career out of skateboarding, came up here and it inspires a lot of kids to actually go outside and socialize,” skateboarder Umman Turkoglu said.
“There’s not that many other places to go for certain people,” added Omar Clark of Harlem.
Luke Rizzo hasn’t even lived in New York for a week, but he said he is already disappointed with the city’s park system.
“I’ve always wanted to skate at Tompkins and I just moved here,” Rizzo said.
Skateboarders said Tompkins Square Park is a safe place for them to congregate and skate.
“Skating in the streets can be kind of dangerous, though, with cars,” Ronnie Toms said. “Taking this away, I feel like is a slap in the face to skaters, honestly.”
Park officials told CBS2 they met with a skate user group last month to discuss its concerns. They are now under review.