Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 3

If you’re in the Lower East Side (“LES”), remember you’re in an odd and funky land.

There’s a “holy tree” in Tompkins Square Park.  Got one in your local park?

I kid you not.  Notice the garland. 

 20080113-tompkins-square-park-14-hare-krishna-tree.jpg

Here’s a closeup of the garland in case it doesn’t show well.

dsc05772.jpg

There are also flowers on the ground as you’ll note.

At least it’s an elm.  It’d be a little ridiculous for a non-majestic tree to be holy, wouldn’t it?

The tree is the site where the Hare Krishna religion was first taught in the United States in 1966.  The devotees (and there are still a bunch in NYC) honor the spot.

I thought I’d read that the City had put a plaque there in commemoration, but none was in sight.  I guess the devotees show up regularly to replenish the flowers and (maybe) get rid of the old.

But, to be honest, that’s not the strangest part of the park.  To me, it ain’t even close.

Remember 9/11?  The biggest disaster in NYC history.  It took place in 2001.  Any idea of the 2nd biggest disaster?  It was the burning of the General Slocum that happened in 1904.  The Slocum was a paddleboat that was carrying 1,300 passengers from the “Little Germany” section of NYC; now known as the Lower East Side.  Most of the passengers were women and children escaping the poverty and filth of the LES on a Church-sponsored daytrip on the boat to a picnic area.  It was going up the East River and burned around 90th Street.  Over 1,000 of the 1,300 died because of virtually zero safety features.  How 1,000 could die just off 90th Street is a testament to how bad the safety features were.  (Wikipedia says that the life preservers actually had iron weights in them to meet the “weight requirements” of life preservers.)

There was almost no punishment for those responsible for the disaster and, I’m told, the inhabitants of Little Germany were so distraught and angered by the follow-up (and cover-up) that the entire community essentially was scattered to the wind as people left NYC.

Well, there’s one (count it) memorial to those victims.  Here it is:

20080113-tompkins-square-park-10-general-slocum-memorial.jpg

And here’s the amazing thing:  there’s no text on the memorial; it’s unmarked.  Not only that, but it is in a kid’s area and can’t be reached by anyone without children (no “unaccompanied adults” are allowed in the area).

Remember it when you hear stories about a monument to 9/11.

-H

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Explore posts in the same categories: Greenwich Village, LES, Manhattan, Wanderings

3 Comments on “Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 3”

  1. Ell Says:

    This is the text that was on the momument in the play area:

    “They were earth’s purest, children young and fair.”

    From http://www.forgotten-ny.com
    [Added by FamousAnkles: the link isn’t coming through correctly, so once you get to forgotten-ny, click on “You’d Never Believe You’re in NYC” at the top and then find the article called “Brothers”. Thank you Ell for the citation.]

  2. Ell Says:

    For those interested further, the best account I can find on the Slocum is here:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4442/is_200402/ai_n16059001/pg_1

    Utterly amazing.

  3. coffee Says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger
    if you are not already 😉 Cheers!


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