Tompkins Square Park, New York City

Tompkins Square Park is located in the Alphabet City section of the East Village of New York City.  It was named after Daniel D. Tompkins, former governor of New York and Vice President under President James Monroe. The park has a long and storied past of being the location of many historic events, mostly political in nature. Labor riots in the 1870s, Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, and homeless riots in the 80s and 90s occurred here.  Allen Ginsberg and A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought some peace to the park when they chanted the first Hare Krishna mantra outside India under the elm trees in 1966.  Just a few blocks down the way, Bill Graham opened the Fillmore East a few years later in 1968.  A band shell had recently been built there, so the groups that played the Fillmore would go there to jam.  Jimi Hendrix, the Fugs and the Jefferson Airplane stopped by in their off time.  But, before Bill and Company moved in, the Grateful Dead played their first East Coast gig at the band shell on June 1, 1967.  They had been booked to play some gigs in New York City that June that would introduce them to the local hippie scene, the Tompkins Square concert placing them in the center of the East Village hippiedom.  I hoped to find the band shell still standing as I did with the Naumburg Band Shell in Central Park.  Much to my dismay, I learned that the band shell had been torn down in 1991, due to neglect and that, according to the perception of local authorities, it was the rallying point of much of the trouble that happened there.  Like many neighborhoods in the City, The East Village has been gentrified and so the park and its surroundings is the not the area of unrest that it use to be.  That edginess is still present though, I could feel the old vibes still coming through as I walked down E. 10th Street, imaging myself processing with the hippie parade that had taken place that day before the concert.  The first picture here is a general picture of Tompkins Square Park, sans band shell.  The second picture, a sign at one of the entrances to the park.  Despite the invasion of yuppies and tragic hipsters, great vibes still abound here in the place where the Grateful Dead began their East Coast/New York City trip.


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