Tompkins Square Park


Eclectic People Watching Abounds in this Infamous East Village Semi-Green Space

Tompkins Square Park in Fall East Village

About Tompkins Square Park

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • Dogs in costumes, a holy tree, and a lot of history make this historic public space a delightful place to consider how wild, and sometimes grizzly, human nature can be.
  • Tompkins Square Park opened in 1850, spanning East 7th to 10th Streets and Avenues A to B.
  • The park includes sitting areas, green spaces, basketball courts, playgrounds, a dog run, and fitness equipment.
  • The park is named for Daniel D. Tompkins, a former Mayor of New York, who purchased the land from Peter Stuyvesant, the previous owner in the 17thcentury.
  • Before it became a park, the entire area was a salt marsh – as was much of the East Village! Check out the 1767 Ratzer Map of New York below for a peek at where marshes, streams, and farms once dominated Manhattan (map nerds ahoy!).
The Ratzer Map 1767 Courtesy of
  • The 1811 Commissioners’ Plan outlined plans for Manhattan and designated the land as a public space. (The plan also originated the city’s street grid system!)
  • In the 1980s, the park became a hotspot for crime – drug deals, robberies, other violence. The park has also been the site of riots between police and activists from 1874 all the way through 1988.  (More about the 1988 riots in our Iggy Pop post!)
  • The Tompkins Square Dog Park, opened in 1990, is the very first dog run in New York City.
  • The Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade – that originated here is one of the best scenes ever for dog lovers!! (Currently, the parade is being held downtown in the East River Park due to finances and the number of attendees.  Be sure to check the website each year for updates.)
Tompkins Square park Halloween Parade Pamplemousse
Carpe City’s Pet Friendly Restaurant Reviewer in Chief – Pamplemousse @pamplemoussethepup at the 2019 Tompkins Square Park Halloween Parade
  • The street on the east side of the park is named after famous jazz musician Charlie Parker, who lived across the street.  Every August, jazz fans converge on Tompkins Square Park for the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.
  • Tompkins Square Park is heavily featured in Netflix’s Russian Doll, starring New York native Natasha Lyonne.



Carpe City Trivia

Oh, Creepy: The Butcher of Tompkins Square Park

Daniel Rakowitz earned the nickname “The Butcher of Tompkins Square” when he murdered Monika Beerle, his ex-girlfriend, in the park in 1989. Murders in 1989 were sadly a dime a dozen, so why the notoriety? Well, after killing his victim, he then made a soup out of her by cooking her head and brains. He then proceeded to serve the soup to the homeless people living in the park. Rakowitz, who declared himself a cannibal, was arrested and put on trial with much fanfare, hence the nickname. Found not guilty due to insanity, he has been living in the Wards Island psychiatric facility ever since.

The Slocum Memorial Fountain

The memorial fountain, located in the north end of the park, is dedicated to the 1,000 people who were killed in what’s known as the General Slocum boat disaster. On June 15, 1904, a local German church hired a steamboat to bring members of its community out to the North Shore of Long Island. Tragically, the boat, which was made of wood, caught fire after leaving its pier on the East River. The passengers were mostly women and children. The 1906 fountain remembers their lives, lost in the deadliest incident in New York City before 9/11.

The Park's Hare Krishna Tree, Home of the Hare!

Tompkins Square Park is full of beautiful elm trees, but one in particular, found in the south end of the park, is famous for a very unusual, very spiritual reason – it’s a holy tree. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Indian spiritual leader, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York, not long after he arrived in the US in 1965. Prabhupada established the Society’s headquarters at a storefront on 2ndAvenue and in 1966 would often walk over the Tompkins Square Park to meet with his disciples. It was here, under an old elm tree, that, on October 9, 1966, Prabhupada introduced the famous mantra, still heard all around the Village and beyond:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

The practitioners chanted for nearly two hours, danced, and played cymbals, tambourines, drums, benches, whatever was around. This day is recognized as the origin of the American Hare Krishna religion, which continues to be a diverse group of devotees. Its adherents treat the, now aptly named, Hare Krishna tree as a holy place and a pilgrimage site because of its special history.

By: Cyd Sacks & Ariel Kates

New York City Tours

Great Places Near Tompkins Square Park

Hanoi House east village exterior

Hanoi House

Fresh and Inventive Vietnamese Comfort Food on St. Marks

119 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
Frank OHara East Village history
Art & Culture

Frank O'Hara

The Home & History of the Prolific New York Poet

441 E. 9th Street, New York, NY 10009
PDT Please Don't Tell East Village Bar

PDT (Please Don't Tell)

A Clark Kent Style Clandestine Destination with Serious Cocktail Cred

113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
mosaic trail east village street art
Art & Culture

Mosaic Trail

Mosaic Lampposts Depicting Current Events and Historical Moments

111 St Marks Pl, New Yor, NY 10009
Pink Olive Store Exterior
Art & Culture

Pink Olive

Whimsical, thoughtful and pretty gifts at this East Village boutique

439 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009
Superiority Burger East Village Dining

Superiority Burger

Quick, Cheap and One of the Best Vegetarian Burgers Around

119 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
Mr Throwback vintage sportswear East village
Art & Culture

Mr. Throwback

Fuel your 80s & 90s sports fashion nostalgia

437 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009
Ruffian Natural Wines


A Tiny Sliver of Wine Tasting Bliss and Quality Bites

125 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009
Ladybird vegetable bar exterior east village


Tasty Vegan Small Plates in a Festively Plush Atmosphere

111 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

More Great Walking Tours


Sign up to our monthly e-mail about the latest and greatest places for food, wine art and history

Skip to content