By 2004, there was barely a trace of the 1980s left on any surface in the East Village. That's the year that the concerts marking the anniversary of the 1988 police riots began in Tompkins Square Park, where it all went down.
On the night of August 6th, 1988, "long-simmering resentments over East Village gentrification boiled over into the now-infamous Tompkins Square Park riot. Hundreds of people had gathered at the park to protest the imposition of a 1 a.m. curfew. At some point, the protest turned violent; bottles were thrown at the police, who retaliated with beatings and arrests throughout the night." The NY Times reported that the clash ended with 44 people hurt and 9 arrested. A few days later there were already 81 complaints of police brutality filed.
The Times noted a few days after the riot that leading up to the clash there had been "substantial complaints by local residents that late night noise and rowdiness were disturbing rest while unsanitary nuisances committed in the late hours disfigured the park for the whole day. The small park is the only bit of easily accessible greenery on the east side of Lower Manhattan in the long stretch between East Fourth and Grand Streets."
Not long after the incident, the homeless encampment in the park was removed.
The now-annual anniversary event returned over the weekend, and a small crowd turned out in Tompkins Square Park, which is now surrounded by a different landscape, and one that feels further and further away from what the neighborhood once represented. But complaints about the homeless persist, even if they're ginned up by the tabloids: the NYPD recently installed a SkyWatch tower in Tompkins after the New York Post claimed that the park had become "an encampment for the surging number of city vagrants." The tower was removed a week later.