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Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park

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Tompkins Square Park is a 10.5 acre (42,000 m²) public park
Park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

 in the Alphabet City
Alphabet City, Manhattan
Alphabet City is a neighborhood located within the Lower East Side and East Village in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is also known as Loisaida, a Spanglish adaptation of 'Lower East Side'. Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter...

 section of the East Village
East Village, Manhattan
The East Village is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, lying east of Greenwich Village, south of Gramercy and Stuyvesant Town, and north of the Lower East Side...

 neighborhood in the borough
Borough (New York City)
New York City, one of the largest cities in the world, is composed of five boroughs. Each borough now has the same boundaries as the county it is in. County governments were dissolved when the city consolidated in 1898, along with all city, town, and village governments within each county...

 of Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. It is square in shape, and is bounded on the north by East 10th Street
10th Street (Manhattan)
10th Street is an east-west street from the West Village neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan to Avenue D in the East Village. East of Sixth Avenue it changes heading, from east-northeast to east-southeast. Traffic is eastbound as far as Tompkins Square Park, of which it marks...

, on the east by Avenue B
Avenue B (Manhattan)
Avenue B runs from south to north and is two blocks east of 1st Avenue in Alphabet City, a district within the East Village. Avenue B runs from Houston Street to 14th Street, where it continues into a loop road in Stuyvesant Town, to be connected with Avenue A. Below Houston Street, Avenue B...

, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A
Avenue A (Manhattan)
Avenue A runs from north to south and is the westernmost of the avenues to be defined by letters instead of using the numbering system in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Avenue A runs from Houston Street to 14th Street, where it continues into a loop road in Stuyvesant Town, connecting to...

. St. Marks Place abuts the park to the west.

19th century


Tompkins Square Park is located on land near the East River
East River
The East River is a tidal strait in New York City. It connects Upper New York Bay on its south end to Long Island Sound on its north end. It separates Long Island from the island of Manhattan and the Bronx on the North American mainland...

, that originally consisted of salt marsh
Salt marsh
A salt marsh is an environment in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and salt water or brackish water, it is dominated by dense stands of halophytic plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh...

 and open tidal meadows, "Stuyvesant meadows", (map, left) the largest such ecosystem on Mannahatta
Mannahatta
Mannahatta may refer to:* the Lenni Lenape name for Manhattan, meaning "land of many hills"* "Mannahatta," a poem by Walt Whitman* Mannahatta Project, a project by the Wildlife Conservation Society to reconstruct and map Manhattan in 1609 when Henry Hudson saw the island, culminating in Eric W....

 island, but has since been filled in. The unimproved site, lightly taxed by the city as most agricultural properties were, seemed scarcely worth the expense of improving to its owners, the Stuyvesants, who inherited it from the 17th-century grant awarded to Peter Stuyvesant
Peter Stuyvesant
Peter Stuyvesant , served as the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland from 1647 until it was ceded provisionally to the English in 1664, after which it was renamed New York...

, and their Pell and Fish relatives. The City aldermen, to raise the tax base of the city, accepted a gift of land in 1829 from Peter Gerard Stuyvesant (1778—1847) with the understanding that it would remain a public space, and compensated other owners with $62,000 in city funds to set aside a residential square; transforming the muddy site took another $22,000 before Tompkins Square was opened in 1834. Surrounded by a cast-iron fence the following year and planted with trees, the square was expected to have a prosperous and genteel future, which was undercut, however, by the Panic of 1837
Panic of 1837
The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis or market correction in the United States built on a speculative fever. The end of the Second Bank of the United States had produced a period of runaway inflation, but on May 10, 1837 in New York City, every bank began to accept payment only in specie ,...

 that brought the city's expansion to a halt.

Tompkins Square Park is named for Daniel D. Tompkins
Daniel D. Tompkins
Daniel D. Tompkins was an entrepreneur, jurist, Congressman, the fourth Governor of New York , and the sixth Vice President of the United States .-Name:...

 (1774–1825), Vice President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 under President James Monroe
James Monroe
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States . Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation...

 and the Governor of New York
Governor of New York
The Governor of the State of New York is the chief executive of the State of New York. The governor is the head of the executive branch of New York's state government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military and naval forces. The officeholder is afforded the courtesy title of His/Her...

 from 1807 until 1817. He had overseen some early drainage in the locality in connection with minor fortifications in the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

. The park was opened in 1850.

In 1857, immigrants protesting unemployment and food shortages were attacked by police. In 1863 the deadly Draft Riots occurred in the park.

On January 13, 1874, the Tompkins Square Riot
Tompkins Square Riot (1874)
The Tompkins Square Park Riot occurred on January 13, 1874 when the New York Police Department crushed a demonstration involving thousands of unemployed in New York City's Tompkins Square Park, located in what is now called the East Village.-Background:...

 occurred in the park when police crushed a demonstration involving thousands of workers. The riot marked an unprecedented era of labor conflict and violence.

In 1877 5,000 people fought with the National Guard when they amassed to hear Communist revolutionary speeches.

In April 1897 a Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 was arrested for not obtaining a permit for the performance of Birkat Hachama, a Jewish ritual done once every 28 years.

20th century




In the middle 19th century the "Square" included a large parade ground for drilling the New York National Guard. The modern layout of the park by Robert Moses
Robert Moses
Robert Moses was the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, New York. As the shaper of a modern city, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of...

 in 1936 is said to be intended to divide and manage crowds that have gathered there in protest since the 1870s. That tradition was rekindled as the park became the nursery of demonstrations against the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 in the 1960s.

By the 1980s Tompkins Square Park had become for many New Yorkers synonymous with the city's increased social problems. The park at that time was a high-crime area that contained encampments
Tent City
A tent city is a temporary housing facility made using tents. Informal tent cities may be set up without authorization by homeless people or protesters. As well, state governments or military organizations set up tent cities to house refugees, evacuees, or soldiers...

 of homeless
Homelessness
Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are unable or unwilling to acquire and maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence." The legal definition of "homeless" varies from country...

 people, and it was a center for illegal drug dealing and heroin use.

In August 1988, a riot erupted in the park when police attempted to clear the park of homeless people; 44 people were injured. Bystanders as well as homeless people and political activists got caught up in the police action that took place on the night of August 6 and the early morning of August 7, after a large number of police surrounded the park and charged at the hemmed-in crowd while other police ordered all pedestrians not to walk on streets neighboring the park. Much of the violence was videotape
Videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

d and clips were shown on local TV news reports (notably including one by a man who sat on his stoop across the street from the park and continued to film while a police officer beat him up), but ultimately, although at least one case went to trial, no police officers were found culpable. A Punk Rock
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

 festival has been held in the park in the years since prompting people to never forget this tragedy.

The park had become a symbol of the problems in the city. Against that backdrop, Daniel Rakowitz
Daniel Rakowitz
Daniel Rakowitz is an American murderer and cannibal. He was born in 1960 in Rockport, Texas, where his father was a policeman. He moved to New York around 1985....

 shocked the neighborhood in 1989 when he murdered Monika Beerle, dismembered her, made a soup out of her body and served it to the homeless in the park. Rakowitz, nicknamed "The Butcher of Tompkins Square", was found not guilty by reason of insanity and remains incarcerated at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Ward's Island
Ward's Island
Wards Island is situated in the East River in New York City. Administratively it is part of the borough of Manhattan. It is bridged by rail to the borough of Queens by the Hell Gate Bridge and it is joined to Randall's Island to the north by landfill...

.

From June 3, 1991 to July 25, 1992, the park was closed to the public for restoration, but also to keep out the homeless and in attempt to calm tensions.

21st century



Increasing gentrification
Gentrification
Gentrification and urban gentrification refer to the changes that result when wealthier people acquire or rent property in low income and working class communities. Urban gentrification is associated with movement. Consequent to gentrification, the average income increases and average family size...

 in the East Village during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as enforcement of a park curfew and the eviction of homeless people, have changed the character of Tompkins Square Park. The park was closed and refurbished in the early 1990s and today, with its playgrounds and basketball
Basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

 courts, dog run, ping pong table, handball courts and built-in outdoor chess tables, the park attracts young families, students and seniors as well as tourists from all over the globe.

Events


The outdoor drag
Drag (clothing)
Drag is used for any clothing carrying symbolic significance but usually referring to the clothing associated with one gender role when worn by a person of another gender. The origin of the term "drag" is unknown, but it may have originated in Polari, a gay street argot in England in the early...

 festival Wigstock
Wigstock
Wigstock was an annual outdoor drag festival that began in the 1980s in New York's East Village that took place on Labor Day. Traditionally the festival would act as the unofficial end to the summer for the gay community of New York City...

, held in the park, is now part of the Howl Festival.
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....

 is a musical tribute to the famous former resident of Avenue B. In 2007, the New Village Music Festival was formed. This is a community music festival dedicated celebrating New York's diverse music scene. In addition, the event highlights the importance of music of culture and cultural arts programs throughout the city.

There is also an annual event in early August commemorating the 1988 Police Riot that features neighborhood bands.

The Food Not Bombs
Food Not Bombs
Food Not Bombs is a loose-knit group of independent collectives, serving free vegan and vegetarian food to others. Food Not Bombs' ideology is that myriad corporate and government priorities are skewed to allow hunger to persist in the midst of abundance...

 Manhattan chapter serves every Sunday in the park, rain or shine.

Cultural Services
972 Fifth Avenue
The Payne Whitney house is a historic building at 972 Fifth Avenue at 79th Street in Manhattan, New York City. It was designed by Stanford White and is considered one of that great architect's finest mature works...

 of the French Embassy in the United States and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
The City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation is the department of government of the City of New York responsible for maintaining the city's parks system, preserving and maintaining the ecological diversity of the city's natural areas, and furnishing recreational opportunities for city's...

 have a popular free outdoor French film festival which shows a critically acclaimed French films each Friday at sunset in city parks including Tompkins during June and July.

Tompkins Square Dog Run


The Tompkins Square Dog Run was the first dog run in New York City. It opened in 1990 as part of a large-scale renovation of the dilapidated park. It recently underwent a $450,000 renovation, much of which was funded by the New York City government and fund-raising by dog run patrons. It now includes a surface of crushed stone [sand], three swimming pools, picnic tables, and bath areas and hoses to spray off your pet.

One such fundraiser is the Halloween
Halloween
Hallowe'en , also known as Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the night before All Saints' Day...

 party the run hosts to raise money to maintain the run. This is the biggest dog Halloween party in the United States, boasting an annual attendance of more than 400 dogs in costume and 2,000 spectators.

Elm trees


One of Tompkins Square Park's most prominent features is its collection of venerable American Elm
American Elm
Ulmus americana, generally known as the American Elm or, less commonly, as the White Elm or Water Elm, is a species native to eastern North America, occurring from Nova Scotia west to Alberta and Montana, and south to Florida and central Texas. The American elm is an extremely hardy tree that can...

 (Ulmus americana) trees. One elm in particular, located next to the semi-circular arrangement of benches in the park's center, is important to adherents of the Hare Krishna
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness , known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada...

 religion. It was beneath this tree, on October 9, 1966, that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness , known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada...

, held the first recorded outdoor chanting session of the Hare Krishna mantra outside of the Indian subcontinent; participants in the ceremony included Beat poet Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

. The event is seen as the founding of the Hare Krishna religion in the United States, and the tree is treated by Krishna adherents as a significant religious site.

American elm trees are known for their towering canopies, which provide abundant shade throughout the spring, summer, and fall. It is rare today to find such a collection of American elms, since many of the mature elms planted across the country have been killed by Dutch Elm Disease
Dutch elm disease
Dutch elm disease is a disease caused by a member of the sac fungi category, affecting elm trees which is spread by the elm bark beetle. Although believed to be originally native to Asia, the disease has been accidentally introduced into America and Europe, where it has devastated native...

. This incurable disease, a fungus carried by elm bark beetles (Coleoptera scolytidae) that colonize on the branches of the elm tree, swept across the United States in the 1930s and remain a threat to the park's collection of elms. Despite having lost at least 34 of the trees, Tompkins Square Park still hosts a large assemblage of elms, which continue to this day to enchant park patrons. The East Village Parks Conservancy, a volunteer group, raises significant private funds for the ongoing care and maintenance of the American elms and other historic trees in Tompkins Square Park.

Playgrounds


The main playground, closest to Avenue A, features many unique jungle gyms, including rock climbing features. The water fountain spurts out unpredictably, in the summer time. There is a large sandbox, swing sets, and benches. There are two smaller playgrounds in the section of the park near 7th Street and Avenue B.

Monuments


  • There is a monument the north side of the park to the General Slocum
    General Slocum
    The PS General Slocum was a passenger steamboat built at Brooklyn, New York, in 1891. The General Slocum was named for Civil War officer and New York Congressman Henry Warner Slocum. She operated in the New York City area as an excursion steamer for the next thirteen years under the same ownership...

    boating disaster on June 15, 1904. This was the greatest single loss of life in New York City prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks
    September 11, 2001 attacks
    The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

    . Over a thousand people, mainly German immigrant mothers and children, drowned in the East River
    East River
    The East River is a tidal strait in New York City. It connects Upper New York Bay on its south end to Long Island Sound on its north end. It separates Long Island from the island of Manhattan and the Bronx on the North American mainland...

     that day. The area near the park, formerly known as Kleindeutschland
    Little Germany, New York
    Little Germany, known in German as Kleindeutschland and Deutschländle and called Dutchtown by contemporary non-Germans, was a German immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City...

    , effectively dissolved in grief as shattered German families moved away. This disaster is also memorialized in James Joyce
    James Joyce
    James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

    's novel Ulysses
    Ulysses (novel)
    Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

    .

  • The park is also the place where Indian Sadhu
    Sadhu
    In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

     A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to sing and preach in 1966, beginning the worldwide Hare Krishna
    International Society for Krishna Consciousness
    The International Society for Krishna Consciousness , known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada...

     movement. An elm
    Elm
    Elms are deciduous and semi-deciduous trees comprising the genus Ulmus in the plant family Ulmaceae. The dozens of species are found in temperate and tropical-montane regions of North America and Eurasia, ranging southward into Indonesia. Elms are components of many kinds of natural forests...

     tree in the park's southern plaza that he chanted beneath is now considered sacred to the Hare Krishna faith, as noted by a New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
    New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
    The City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation is the department of government of the City of New York responsible for maintaining the city's parks system, preserving and maintaining the ecological diversity of the city's natural areas, and furnishing recreational opportunities for city's...

     plaque.

  • The southeast corner of the park contains a statue of Samuel S. Cox
    Samuel S. Cox
    Samuel Sullivan "Sunset" Cox was an American Congressman and diplomat. He represented both Ohio and New York in the United States House of Representatives, and also served as United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.Cox was the grandson of New Jersey Congressman James Cox...

     (1824–1889), a New York City politician who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio and New York, and as U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire in 1885-86. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000839

External links