Tompkins Square Park
Location: Situated between East 7th and 10th Streets and Avenues A and B
On the other side of the island, a failed attempt at replicating the success of parks like Washington Square.
The idea was that this block of swampy land, when drained and leveled and landscaped, could serve as the focal point of a new upscale neighborhood like those in nearby Bond or Stuyvesant Streets. Didn’t quite work that way, as development got body-slammed (I’m speculating here) by the Great Fire of 1835, which would’ve diverted money and resources, and the Great Panic of 1837, which dried up the real estate market. Only properties on the north side ever got developed as was expected; the rest of the park was eventually surrounded by tenements populated by Germans, the Irish, Russian Jews, Puerto Ricans.
As one of the few open areas in the city, the park was the site of multiple protests throughout the 19th and early 20th century, but New Yorkers of my age (I’m almost 40, btw) associate the park with riots in 1989 and 1991; the latter prompted by a heavy-handed attempt by the police to remove a shantytown in the park. The riots were framed as a revolt against the forces that sought to gentrify the neighborhood, yet everything once believed antithetical to such gentrification — the drugs, the violence, the homeless, the squatters, the revolutionary thinking — in the long run probably only heightened the neighborhood’s allure to a well-funded Bohemia that came a little later, one that gladly absorbed all values except those that bored it. And today we have the spectacle of The New York Post defending the newcomer investment bankers against those terrible resident hipster snobs, because (after all) all that’s solid melts into air.