6. Tompkins Square Park Was Once Home to a Bandshell
In 1966, the city finished constructing a bandshell near the southern end of Tompkins Square Park, which was used for concerts, rallies, and other crowd-gathering events that frequently took place during NYC’s grittier history. At the time, the park was a popular site for various riots, including the Tompkins Square Park riot of 1874 (pitting the NYPD and thousands of unemployed civilians against each other), the riot of 1988 (in protest of the park’s newly mandated 1 a.m. curfew that barred homeless encampments), the deadly Draft Riots (in protest of ongoing Civil War Drafts), and a series of demonstrations against the Vietnam War that took place in the 1960s.
Over the years, the bandshell came to symbolize many things: to city officials, it was representative of the disorder of the park. (As noted in the New York Times, the homeless would frequently sleep there.) To others, it was a rallying spot and a public forum, where people would gather to voice their opinions.
In midst of a protest that took place during a Memorial Day concert in 1991, the park was shut down for renovations that included the destruction of the bandshell. New playgrounds were constructed and sidewalks were replaced, but the bandshell was never rebuilt. While many people in the East Village believe the area is now safer, many still associate the loss with the end of a movement. Some have even claimed that the area has become more susceptible to gentrification following the incident.