Tompkins Square tree offers more than good cheer

Tompkins Square Park Holiday Tree

The holiday tree in Tompkins Square Park commemorates those who died from AIDS. Image courtesy of EV Grieve.

Two weeks ago, Off the Grid featured a notice announcing the lighting of the tree in Tompkins Square Park. At this year’s lighting ceremony on December 9th, a plaque was also unveiled that details the history of the tree, and how its annual lighting is a memorial to the devastation of the AIDS epidemic on the East Village.

A new plaque was installed at the site of the Tompkins Square Park tree, planted in honor of Glenn Barnett.

A new plaque was installed at the site of the Tompkins Square Park tree, planted in honor of Glenn Barnett and all those from the neighborhood who have died of AIDS. Photo courtesy of EV Grieve.

Unlike the tree at Rockefeller Plaza or Washington Square Park, the Tompkins Square park evergreen is a live tree that lives in the park year-round. The spruce was planted in 1992, as part of a larger renovation of the park. The tree was dedicated to Glenn Barnett, a community member and staunch advocate of the renovation, who had died of AIDS. The tree is a memorial to all those the neighborhood lost to AIDS. Every year since, the tree is lighted during the December holidays to “celebrate our community’s compassion and brotherhood and to thank our neighbors who work to maintain and improve the park for the community.” The new plaque was given to the park by the Tompkins Square Park Neighborhood Coalition.

A number of organizations and businesses make this commemoration and lighting possible each year, including the Tompkins Square Park Neighborhood Coalition, the East Village Parks Conservancy, Theater for the New City, Third Street Music School Settlement, and Veselka Restaurant.


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avatar Sheryl Woodruff is GVSHP's Senior Director of Operations.