Tompkinsville is a community that's been trying to turn itself around in recent years and become part of the revitalization of Staten Island's waterfront, and now, it's been thrust into the spotlight, though its not for the reason residents would have hoped. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
At nearly any given time, you can find someone hanging out in Tompkinsville Park.
"It does attract people who, you know, are having a good old time, and sometimes, it doesn't feel as wholesome an environment for kids," said store owner Katie McCarthy.
The Everything Goes Book Cafe is just across the street from the park, and McCarthy has owned it for the last 30 years. She said her north shore community has changed over the last three decades.
Concerns about the park, though, are nothing new. With several social service offices in the area and a men's shelter around the corner, residents said it's always been a hotbed for clashes between police and those who hang out there.
Still, the diverse neighborhood has been on the upswing in recent years, falling in line with the redevelopment of Staten Island's waterfront communities.
"They got the new grocery store over there, the new 99 cent store. They put that beauty supplies, a new one here, too," said resident Felipe Velez. "And it's been progress."
Velez said the neighborhood is reeling after many witnessed the death of Eric Garner, who was not in the park and, according to witnesses, not bothering anyone.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in what appears to be a chokehold while arresting him for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.
Garner can be heard saying he can't breathe and later died of cardiac arrest.
"I would expect, Bed[ford]-Stuyvesant, maybe, you know, in the harbor or in Arlington. Not here," said resident John McCray.
That the incident took place on the north shore, which is in the middle of a renaissance, didn't escape the notice of north shore advocates, who said Garner's death will once again put Staten Island on the map for all the wrong reasons.
"It's a smack in the face," said Bobby Digi, whose group, the North Shore Business Association, represents nearly 80 shops along the Bay Street corridor. The group plans to install security cameras in businesses along the strip.
He said he's urging angry residents to be patient as Garner's death is investigated and encouraging police to open dialogue with the community to prevent an incident like this from happening again.