Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Tompkins Square Park in greener days

Recently, it seems the state of Tompkins Square Park has gone downhill as it has been looking extremely neglected and abused. The lawns have been worn down to dirt, plants and flowers have disappeared, benches and decorative elements of the park are broken and vandalized. Someone has even been spray painting graffiti on the trees. 

With a lack of a full time staff, no dedicated gardener, minimal maintenance, no security to keeps dogs out of the gardens, and a city government that seems not to care at all, the park is really suffering. There is a "clean up" event happening tomorrow (August 18) at 5pm for residents to pick up litter.

I was looking through some old photos and realized how lush and green the park was just over ten years ago. A lot of credit goes to Debi the gardener, who retired in 2019. Her hard work made the park beautiful, and she is sorely missed.

This is the main lawn looking west on May 13, 2011. You can see there were flower beds along the fence and there used to be more trees.

Tompkins Square Park 13 May 2011

Unfortunately, the American Elm on the left in the above photo came down on August 29, 2011.

Tompkins Square Park 29 August 2011

It was leaning in such a way that the roots came to the surface, so a tip-over was inevitable. It was replaced later in 2011 by the NY Restoration Project, who planted a Dawn Redwood.
Off the top of my head, I can think of 18 mature trees that have either fallen or been cut down in the last 10-20 years. In 2014, resident Michael Natale created his wonderful Tompkins Tree map, which shows four markers for trees that were lost as he was creating the map.
This photo was taken on May 19, 2012 when the main lawn really was a lawn and people didn't have to worry about sitting in dog crap or worse.

Tompkins Square Park 19 May 2012

Of course, there was Bendy Tree, partner of the Krishna Tree, seen here on November 3, 2012. Bendy Tree would live just under another two years before being sent to the chipper on September 20, 2014.

Tompkins Square Park 3 November 2012

This photo was taken on the same day, but is over by the Temperance Fountain. The tree on the left was a favorite of local hawks, Christo and Dora, who often shared meals there with their offspring. It was one of the best hawk-watching trees in the park, but it was cut down some time around 2013-2014.

Tompkins Square Park 3 November 2012

November 17, 2012:

Tompkins Square Park 17 November 2012

May 13, 2013:

Tompkins Square Park 13 May 2013

This happened on August 9, 2013. It had just rained and the air was warm and humid, then crack!

Tompkins Square Park 9 August 2013

This man and another were sitting on the bench when the tree broke and were lucky not to have been hurt. This tree still stands today inside the park at the Avenue A & St Mark's entrance.

Tompkins Square Park 9 August 2013

This is a view of Krishna and Bendy on a lovely fall day on October 21, 2013. The row of benches on the right used to be a good place to sit in the shade. Now it's exposed to direct sun.

Tompkins Square Park 2 October 2013

This elm, photographed on October 25, 2015, still stands, but the entire upper left quadrant recently came down. The fence on the right side of the photo was replaced with one that is about two feet high when the playground along 7th Street was remodeled in 2018-2019. As a result, dogs have destroyed that area which is now dirt. The flowers and small decorative trees in that garden are all gone.

Tompkins Square Park 25 October 2015

Just north of the Krishna Tree, this Scholar Tree had a low branch that proved to be irresistible to children (and many adult children) who loved to play on it. This photo is from October 15, 2016. The branch was cut off some time around 2020-2021.

Tompkins Square Park 15 October 2016

Going through my old photos brought back memories of many people who used to be regulars of the park. For several years, Giuseppi Logan played his sax from a bench near the Avenue A & 9th Street entrance. This photo is from April 21, 2014.

Giuseppi Logan 21 April 2014

I really miss him, Debi, the grand trees, and flower gardens that for a time made Tompkins a beautiful place.

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