Tompkins Square Park in New York City

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Tompkins Square Park is a 10.5 acre (42,000 m²) public park in the Alphabet City section of the East Village neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It is square in shape, and is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A. St. Marks Place abuts the park to the west.


19th century

Tompkins Square Park is located on land near the East River, that originally consisted of salt marsh and open tidal meadows, "Stuyvesant meadows", (map, left) the largest such ecosystem on Mannahatta 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, 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 that brought the city's expansion to a halt.

Tompkins Square Park is named for Daniel D. Tompkins (1774–1825), Vice President of the United States under President James Monroe and the Governor of New York from 1807 until 1817. He had overseen some early drainage in the locality in connection with minor fortifications in the War of 1812. 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. 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.<ref name=dogster/>

One such fundraiser is the Halloween 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 (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 religion. It was beneath this tree, on October 9, 1966, that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, 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. 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. 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.


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.


  • There is a monument the north side of the park to the General Slocum 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. Over a thousand people, mainly German immigrant mothers and children, drowned in the East River that day. The area near the park, formerly known as Kleindeutschland, effectively dissolved in grief as shattered German families moved away. This disaster is also memorialized in James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
  • The park is also the place where Indian Sadhu A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to sing and preach in 1966, beginning the worldwide Hare Krishna movement. An elm 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 plaque.
  • The southeast corner of the park contains a statue of Samuel S. 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. [1]

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