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Home » Gnarly! Philly skateboarders steal iconic bench from NYC’s Tompkins Square Park

Gnarly! Philly skateboarders steal iconic bench from NYC’s Tompkins Square Park

by Staff
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This skateboard rivalry is getting downright gnarly.

A group of skateboarders from Philadelphia ignited a turf war with their counterparts in Manhattan last month by stealing a famed green bench from Tompkins Square Park. 

A hulking mass of metal to passersby, the 13-foot, curved backless bench has long been an icon in the world of skateboarding.

Beloved for its arc, which adds an undeniable flair to skaters’ grinds and slides, the 300-pound bench’s legacy dates back to the late ’90s in Santa Ana, Calif., and is coveted enough that it has been stolen in the past by fans.

“It’s such a gratifying feeling to skate a curve and then to have the smoothness of metal, and with the length of it,” said professional skateboarder Anthony Van Engelen. “Most skaters, they would be dying to skate something like that.”

Van Engelen and several other skaters raised the bench’s profile after being filmed performing a slew of tricks on an identical structure in the early aughts. That Van Engelen landed an extremely difficult trick in 2020 using the bench — a switch backside noseblunt slide — only added to the lore.

In October, Van Engelen brought the bench to New York, when his company, FA World Entertainment, was opening a store in the East Village.

Once again, the bench was out in the open for all to skate — and inevitably, to take. 

The Philadelphia skaters drove a UHAUL truck up to New York to perform the heist.
Harry Bergenfield
The green bench was originally from Santa Ana, California and brought to New York City last October.
The green bench was originally from Santa Ana, California and brought to New York City last October.
tf_report/Instagram

A month after joking to his friends that they should steal the bench, Philadelphia skate videographer Harry Bergenfield, 29, told The Post that six of them drove a UHAUL up to Tompkins in the dead of night last week.

They heaved the 300-pound bench into the back of the truck and secured it for the drive home on I-95 with Converse shoelaces and half a roll of duct tape. The following afternoon, Bergenfield unveiled the heist by posting a photo of the bench in Philadelphia’s Municipal Plaza to Instagram.

“We were making jokes, like ‘What are they gonna do? Take a train down here and put it back on the train?’” Bergenfield said. “Those kids don’t know how to drive.” 

The bench was moved a few days later to Cecil B. Moore Station Plaza, outside of Temple University, to add another skateable object to the flatground space. It has been a hit among local skaters since.

Between 50 to 100 people perform tricks on the bench daily, Bergenfield said, adding that landing a move on it is “like putting on your basketball shoes and playing at the Garden.”  

Donny Hixson, 26, drove over an hour from Bridgeton, NJ, just to ride this legend. 

“I’ve known about this bench for over 10 years,” Huxston said. “It’s a pure gem. It’s something you’d want to skate in New York.”

The bench is now located at Cecil B. Moore Station Plaza near Temple University.
The bench is now located at Cecil B. Moore Station Plaza near Temple University.
Joseph Kaczmarek

Back in New York City though, the reaction in Tompkins has been mixed.

“That was our s—t first,” griped Naquan Rollings, 24, a skate videographer.

The anonymous Instagram account Tompkins Flatground, which posts photos and videos of the skateboarders in the park, threatened to go to Philly to get back the bench this week, according to a post on the account.

The curved metal bench is considered to be perfect for performing tricks.
The curved metal bench is considered to be perfect for performing tricks.
Joseph Kaczmarek

Everyone in the skateboarding community is waiting to see where the bench ends up next.

“It’d be hilarious if that thing makes its way on an airplane sometime to Europe or something and comes back here,” Van Engelen said. “The more ridiculous it gets, to me, it’s funny and entertaining.”



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