Tompkins Square Park Is Missing Its Crusties


Something is amiss in the city. No, it’s not the bizarre weather (though wasn’t it cold yesterday?). Take a look around. What don’t you see? Did you say “nomads?” Yep! You’re right. There are no nomads this year in Tompkins Square Park. Well, the New York Times is on the case.

The Times investigated the disappearance of a breed of nomad commonly known as “crusties” — a name derived from the fact that their clothes have hardened with dirt. The crusties usually make their home in a western section of Tompkins Square Park, known as Crusty Row. Last year throngs of them inhabited the park from May through September; this year there have only been a couple of isolated sightings.

But why have they gone away? Is it related to global warming?

“It’s like the birds aren’t migrating this year; the salmon aren’t swimming upstream,” said Chris Flash, an East Village resident who runs a local bike courier service and an underground newspaper called The Shadow. “The whole ecology of the neighborhood is out of whack.”

Some say it has something to do with the cops, and the fact that last summer they started cracking down on the crusties’ public drinking and tendency to lie down on benches. The New York street poet L.E.S. Jewels, who was featured in a 2005 Times story about heroin addicts and frequents Crusty Row, shared his thoughts:

It’s a park, it’s for all, for all to be,

and Tompkins Square now is just a memory,

it ain’t like it used to be.

I’m sitting here in Tompkins Square,

drinking vodka like I do anywhere,

next thing you know you got a pair of cuffs on,

and those silver bracelets, they ain’t no fun.

Why have they really gone and will they eventually return? It’s a mystery. But, if you get a chance, crusties, shoot one of us an email or something just to let us know you’re alright. We’re worried.