Bill Weinberg leads walking tour of Lower East Side alternative culture

World War 4 Report editor Bill Weinberg will be leading a weekly walking tour highlighting struggles for urban space on New York's Lower East Side over the past generation—including the squats, community centers, community gardens and Tompkins Square Park.  In addition to Tompkins Square, a focal point of popular resistance in the neighborhood since the 1850s, the tour takes in La Plaza Cultural and other community gardens, site of the evicted Charas/El Bohio community center, the former Christadora Settlement House, the historic Saint Brigid's Church (recently saved from destruction by a community acitivst campaign), the Lower East Side Ecology Center, and the former site of the Esperanza Garden, destroyed by city bulldozers in 2000. The one-hour tour leaves from the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in C-Squat, 155 Ave. C between 9th and 10th Streets, every Sunday at 3 PM.

There is a requested donation of $20 to help the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space survive.

  1. Memories of St. Brigid’s, 1991
    I remember the day in June 1991, shortly after the police closure of Tompkins Square Partk, when the NYPD actually invaded St. Brigid’s Church and threatened to arrest Father George Kuhn, who was then a very public supporter of the homeless protest encampment that had been established in the park. This happened in the midst of a protest to demand re-opening of the park, and people immediately surged to the church when word spread of what was happening there. With too many witnesses on hand, the police backed down. Some journalism on the incident by Sarah Ferguson of the Village Voice is preserved in the Blackwell City Reader. Father Kuhn (I wonder where he is today) was a true living exponent of Liberation Theology for New York City.

    While I find it disturbing how this is simply forgotten history for many (probably most) neigborhood residents today, I’m greatly heartened that St. Brigid’s will survive. The high point of my walking tours so far was on Jan. 27, when my group happened to be arriving at St. Brigid’s just as did the procession of parishioners for the church’s historic re-opening, written up in the New York Times. The account also notes (as we were told that night) that the newly reopened St. Brigid’s is now merged with St. Emeric’s Church, which was at Ave. D and 12th St. 

    St. Brigid of Kildare was of course Irish, as the church has traditionally been. Her feast day is Feb. 1 (appropriately just after the re-opening celebration), and is clearly a survival of the pre-Christian Celtic feast Imbolc, also related to the North American tradition of Groundhog Day and Candelaria (or Candlemas) in Latin America, the Festival of Iemanya or Yemanja in Brazil, and (on some level) to the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat, Chinese New Year, and the Japanese Setsubun.

    This global tradition of a halfway-thru-winter holiday speaks to a universal human culture from the pre-industrial age, when the rhythms of the Earth made much more difference in our lives….

    St. Emeric was Hungarian (son of the country’s first Christian king), and possibly the parishioners were mostly Hungarian when the church first opened, in 1949 according to Wikipedia. But for the past two generations at least, they have mostly been Puerto Rican and, more recently, Dominican. With the merging of the two parishes, what was St. Brigid’s Church is now officially the Church of St. Brigid-St. Emeric.

  2. Bill Weinberg to speak on Tompkins Square history
    World War 4 Report editor Bill Weinberg, in his role as neighborhood organic historian on New York’s Lower East Side, will speak Saturday Sept. 7 at the Tompkins Square Library on the history of social revolt around the legendary Tompkins Square Park. Highlights will include the 1857 unemployed riots, the 1863 draft riots, the 1874 depression riots, the 1877 rally in support of the national railroad strike, the city’s destruction of the park to convert it into a drill ground for state militia, and the successful neighborhood campaign for the park’s restoration in the 1880’s. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of how this cycle continued into the 20th century, with the riots 1967, 1988 and 1991.

    Saturday, Sept. 7th   2:00 – 4:00 PM

    Tompkins Square Library
    331 E 10th St, New York, NY

    Sponsored by the New York Nineteenth Century Society

  3. Audio and video clips of Bill Weinberg’s radical walking tour

    An audio clip from my weekly walking tour of the radical history of the Lower East Side is online at Interference Archive, and a video clip in "Housing as a Human Right" from Deep Dish TV. A taste of what I do every weekend…

    The walking tour of the Alphabet City are of the LES covers squats, gardens, riots, uprisings and more. From the Civil War Draft Riots of the 1860s to the Young Lords, Black Panthers, hippies, Yippies and Up Against the Wall Motherf*ckers of the 1960s, to the Tompkins Square anarchists of the '80s to the tree-hugging urban enviros of the '90s to the neighborhood Earthies keeping the legacy alive today.

    The tour starts at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, 155 Avenue C at 3pm every Saturday and Sunday and costs $20. The tour requires a minimum three people, and lasts for about two hours. See ya there.

  4. Five things you’ll learn on Bill Weinberg’s radical walking tour

    Come visit legendary historic sites where the community faced off with gentrification and financial power. Peek inside vibrant community gardens and legendary tenement buildings, Tompkins Square Park, the first community-based recycling center, and the symbol of radicalism-to-gentrification, The Christodora House.

    Here are five things you'll learn on the Radical History Tour that you probably didn't know:

    1.The radical politics of the songwriter who penned the "Wizard of Oz" soundtrack.

    2. What building in the East Village links the Gershwin brothers, the Black Panthers and Iggy Pop.

    3. What park in the East Village was the secret birthplace of both the Hare Krishna movement and Occupy Wall Street.

    4. How New York City's recycling program began as an iniative of East Village community activists.

    5. Why the same area of the city has been variously known as Burnt Mill Point, Drydock, Little Germany, Klein Deutschland, the Lower East Side, Loisaida, the East Village and Alphabet City.

    The tour starts at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space at 155 Avenue C at 3 PM Saturdays and Sundays, $20 a head. The tour is led by local journalist and organic historian Bill Weinberg. The tour requires a minimum three people, and lasts for about two hours.

    For more info, reviews and videos about our tours, check out the MoRUS website