Tompkins Square: A Park Divided…on Cleanliness, Anyway

The central knoll at Tompkins Square Park in N...

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Depending on the different sections of Tompkins Square Park, visitors are divided on its cleanliness, though a government report found a small drop in the percentage of  parks deemed “acceptable” in overall cleanliness.

Jeremy Flynn, 23, said that the dog run is always cleaner than the walkways in the park. “There’s a lot of trash,” he said. “I have to watch the dogs so they don’t pick up cigarette buds and shit like that.” However, Flynn, who moved to the city from Texas five years ago, explained that the park was better than those back home. “This is probably as good as it gets,” he said.

Many East Village residents seem to agree with Flynn. Despite the chilly 40-degree weather, hundreds flock to Tompkins Square Park on one of the few clear days in February to enjoy the sun. The park, between Avenues A and B and from East 7th to 10th Streets, has a dog run, several playgrounds and a basketball court that skateboarders share with the players. In addition to water fountains, a comfort station and many benches, several dozen trashcans are available to the park’s visitors.

Regardless of the trashcan abundance in Tompkins Square Park, the city reported fewer parks throughout the five boroughs deemed “acceptable” for cleanliness, with a decrease from 93% in 2006 to 88% in 2010. The Mayor’s Management Report for Fiscal Year 2010, released last September, evaluates services during the City’s fiscal year from July 2009 to June 2010 and assesses the performance of 46 of the City’s central agencies and organizations, most of which report directly to the Mayor. Evaluations are based on the office’s own research.

Through this research, the city found the percentage of large parks like Tompkins Square rated “acceptable” for cleanliness declined from 89% in 2006 to 76% in 2010. However, the amount only decreased by one percent since 2009.

In spite of the decrease in the number of acceptably clean parks in the city overall one visitor said she thinks Tompkins Square Park has gotten cleaner in the last eight or seven years. “It seems a lot more family oriented,” said the woman, 31, who has been living near  the park for the last decade. “They upgraded the kiddie area and did a lot of landscaping.”

East Village resident Mark Wightman, 41, visits the park with his kids a few times a week. While they spend most of the time in the park at the playground, Wightman said he believes the park is reasonably clean. “I don’t think there’s a lot of graffiti or anything, but we’re mostly in the playground.”

The park’s playgrounds and dog run are virtually spotless, but pathways with less foot-traffic attract glass, cigarette butts and litter. In corners of the park further from the entrances, garbage is sprinkled near trashcans instead of thrown away, attracting the city’s nastier residents.

Though Bridget Maher, 24, visits the dog run often, she explained she was worried about her small dog being hurt by the park’s rats. “I was walking her the other night and this rat just came out of a pile of trash and starred at us,” Maher said. “I’m worried about the garbage piles and all the rats that live in them,” she added, pointing to a heap of ten bags near the comfort station. Like Maher, a reporter observed several rats in various sections of the park walking through the park one night.

While she’s weary of the rats, Maher said her dog chases after them. “She has fun,” Maher said, laughing. Notwithstanding vermin, Maher explained she was pleased with the cleanliness in Tompkins Square Park overall. “Other than that, it’s fine,” she said.

Note: The above was an assignment for my Journalistic Inquiry class. I published it because I liked it and thought it might be interesting to some people.

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