Located in the heart of the East Village, Tompkins Square Park is a lasting vestige of New York City’s grittier past. While it’s surrounded by businesses and restaurants today, the park was once a crime-ridden, gathering place for homeless people, as well as the site of various riots during the late 1900’s. With such a blighted history, it comes as no surprise that the 10.5-acre green space is full of interesting secrets.
10. There is a Hare Krishna Tree in Tompkins Square Park
Take a stroll through Tompkins Square Park and you may notice the collection of American Elm trees lining the area. The sight is rare to come by, as many elms were killed by a spreading fungus, known as Dutch Elm Disease, which swept across the country in the 1930s. Of the assemblage, one tree particularly stands out amongst the rest. Located at the park’s center, it dates all the way back to the park’s founding in 1873, and holds special significance to Hare Krishna followers. It was under this tree, on October 9th, 1966, that the movement’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada recorded the first outdoor chanting session of the Hare Krishna mantra outside of India. In total, the event would last two hours, consisting of music played on various instruments, including cymbals and tambourines. Today, it is recognized as the site where the religion was founded in the U.S, and adherents often come to pay tribute to the tree by leaving items around its base.