Tompkins Square Park

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Tompkins Square Park

Section: Lower Manhattan

Neighborhood: Alphabet City

Address: E10 and B

During 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 of homeless 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. The last straw for the city came when Daniel Rakowitz shocked the neighborhood in 1989 and murdered Monika Beerle, dismembered her, made a soup out of her body and served it to the homeless in the park. After that, events were set in motion to clear the park of the homeless and the drug dealers and renovate it. Efforts were bolstered by the beginning of the gentrification of the Lower East Side. By the mid-1990s the park became a community centerpiece with its playgrounds and basketball courts, handball courts, dog run, and built-in outdoor chess tables. A grove of American elms line the lawns and shade visitors as they enjoy a number of events in the square. True to the neighborhood and its roots in ethnic and bohemian influences community activists, musicians, artists and oddballs still frequent the park.

Tompkins Park events include: The outdoor drag festival Wigstock, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, the New Village Music Festival , an annual "Riot Reunion" concert every summer called "Cracktöberfest" that features the neighborhood crust punk band Leftöver Crack or one of their many other incarnations such as Choking Victim or Star Fucking Hipsters, and the Food Not Bombs Manhattan chapter serves every Sunday in the park, rain or shine. Finally, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation 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.

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