Imagine strolling through Central Park and coming upon an encampment of shacks right out in the open, with furniture and stoves providing heat and comfort for dozens of residents.
This encampment actually existed in the early years of the Great Depression. Central Park’s Great Lawn served as a Hooverville of sorts for out-of-work, homeless New York men.
Public and official sentiment was on the side of the Hooverville residents. A New York Times article from September 22, 1932 states: “The raid was staged on the orders of Deputy Parks Commissioner John Hart, who explained that the Park Department, much as it regretted it, intended to raze the settlement this morning.
“‘We don’t want to do it, but we can’t help it,’ Mr. Hart said, adding that although the men had maintained good order, had built comfortable shacks and furnished them as commodiously as they could, there were no water or sanitary facilities near the settlement.”
There were other Hoovervilles in the city in the 1930s. One, “Camp Thomas Paine,” existed along the Hudson in Riverside Park, another, “Hardlucksville,” was at the end of 10th Street on the East River. Red Hook had its own Hooverville as well, off Columbia Street: