Text and photos by Stacie Joy
Albert Fabozzi first planted the much-loved Christmas tree in Tompkins Square Park in 1992 to honor and memorialize his partner, Glenn Barnett, as well as others who died of AIDS.
The tree was 8 feet tall when he planted it. Today, the tree is well over 50 feet. This year would have been the 29th anniversary of the lighting ceremony and holiday event, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event has been canceled.
Albert says, “we will not be meeting as a group, but I have an arrangement with the Parks Department and the tree will be lighted as per usual. We will respect the tradition.”
The highly anticipated gathering had grown larger every year, and in 2020, due to the pandemic, the Parks Department had required signing off on a three-page stipulation package for the event, which included mandatory physical distancing, masks, plus an on-site security and medical team, and Albert felt it wouldn’t be possible.
People will still be able to enjoy the “delightfully askew” tree, which will be decorated by the Parks Department and illuminated on Thursday, Dec. 10, at dusk.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions and to be respectful of social distancing guidelines, the tree will be lit as per tradition, just with no party,” Albert says. “The neighborhood appreciates and looks forward to seeing the tree and I want to honor that.”
Albert tells me that he’s grateful to the coalition that sponsors the event every year, including Tom Birchard at Veselka, Crystal Field and her Carolers of Olde New York choral group, Third Street Music School Settlement and the Mandel & Lydon Trio, who provide musical accompaniment to the choir.
He also tells me that this coming year will be his last as leader of the event, that he is looking to turn it over to the coalition, as he’s turned 80 and is ready to just be there to celebrate and participate.
Additionally, the tree dedication and memorial plaque, which Albert says had been in place for almost 20 years, was stolen earlier this year at the beginning of the quarantine.
Albert had been cleaning and maintaining the dedication (it had been vandalized from time to time) and now he’s planning on having it replaced, perhaps in bronze. He’s looking forward to next year’s event, and also to passing the baton to the next generation.