A small triangular park in the heart of New York City's civic center, established in Foley Square, is named for patriot, author, humanitarian, and political visionary Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of Common Sense, one of the bestselling and most influential pamphlets in American history. The land that is now Thomas Paine Park was once part of a freshwater swamp surrounded, ironically, by three former British prisons for revolutionaries. One of them was The Bridewell, the infamous detention center where many inmates died from wind and cold exposure while awaiting sentencing. After the war, the area went through more hard times. In the 19th century, it was part of one of the most notorious slums in the country: Five Points, a community of predominantly Irish immigrants. After calls for reform, the City acquired and condemned most of the unsafe buildings between 1887 and 1894.
In 1977, through the initiative of City Council President Paul O'Dwyer, the Council renamed the parcel at New York's center of law and justice Thomas Paine Park.