Instead of stoops, East Village natives are in the park. For half a century, Tompkins has been the home of homeless punks, addicts, and East Village teens just itching to be free, and though the net population has definitely faded out, its prime audience has held strong.
In the open concrete field at 10th and A, the corner my high school friends and I nicknamed “the skate park,” was a whole celebration of Spring at a (social) distance. In the corner closest to the heart of the park, a pack of gym rats squatted, jumped, and stretched long. The teens with big-wheeled bikes who, during normal times, would ride the easternmost avenues doing wheelies, were idling by the fence closest to the basketball courts, watching one after the other practicing new tricks, and giving tips. Two parents blew bubbles with their toddler while the newest generation of skaters grinded on their homemade rail, the skater girls sitting on their boards six feet away, and apart. On the 10th Street side where I was sitting, a girl in a red t-shirt and rainbow leggings was blasting hits from the ’70’s and beyond, manipulating her hoola hoop which danced effortlessly despite the occasional spring zephyr. The girl eventually got on her bike, joining the big wheels as they rode around the open field, her hands off the handle bars, tracing the edges of the hoola hoop like a finger on a crystal glass.