Tompkins Square Park, Then And Now

(Photo: Photo by Q. Sakamaki Courtesy of PowerHouse Books )


Last night at 8 p.m., a long line of folks were stretched along Avenue A by Tompkins Square Park, for some food, because they didn’t have any. They were just south of the amazing banana plant shooting insanely into the air where St. Mark’s Place dead-ends. The park’s plantings, under the brilliant supervision of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, appointed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002, are at their best ever, as they are in other parks around the City. Well, at least in Manhattan. And then, after the sun went down, an even larger (and presumably less hungry) crowd assembled on the site of the park’s dog run.

They were watching ’80s camp semi-classic Better Off Dead, starring a very young John Cusack as a jilted and suicidal high school student who falls for a delightful French exchange student who restores his love of life! In the movie she shook up a Coke can and exploded it on some football bullies and everyone in the park laughed and laughed! They were all the right age to revisit this little bit of their common history. There were also some funny moments between the old park and the new park. One woman was clearly being menaced by an unwanted interaction with a man; she clutched her tiny dog tight to her. On the southwest side of the park there were the usual old guys, by the chess tables. “Give me a cigarette,” said a somewhat shambly if nice man in an outrageous sombrero.

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