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Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side’

Thumbnail_Siegals_Cafe_Jack_Zelig

Address: 76 Second Avenue

Status: Abandoned Church

 

In the early 1900s, Siegal’s Cafe was the nexus of the the Jewish underworld. In Siegal’s gonifs (Yiddish for thieves) and shtarkers (Yiddish for tough guys) planned heists while macs (pimps) and their girls drank and brawled the night away. Now an abandoned church, 76 Second Avenue was anything but holy.

Now an abandoned church, Siegal’s Cafe at 76 Second Avenue was anything but holy. During the early 1900s, the Cafe was the headquarters of the jewish mob.

Now an abandoned church, Siegal’s Cafe at 76 Second Avenue was anything but holy. During the early 1900s, the Cafe was the headquarters of the jewish mob.

 

Who’s Who in The Jewish Mob

 

Packed with gangsters, pimps, prostitutes, opium fiends, pickpockets, strike breakers, con men and their female companions of the night, Siegal’s was a rough place indeed. Owned and operated by Big Alec Horlig and Little Louis Siegal, Siegal’s was wall to wall noir with a 10 table restaurant in the front and a hole-in-the-wall casino in the back. Big Alec and Little Louie stored an arsenal of pistols and shotguns and straight razors behind the bar for rumbles with the Chinatown based Chick Tricker and Jack Sirocco mob.

 

Chieftan of the Jewish mob, Big Jack Zelig, hung his hat at Siegal’s cafe, 76 Second Avenue.

Chieftain of the Jewish mob, Big Jack Zelig, hung his hat at Siegal’s cafe, 76 Second Avenue.

 

However, the unpretentious accommodations still attracted a veritable who’s who in the Jewish mob. On any given night, a visitor might “Jenny the Factory” Fischer, a madam and sometime prostitute who would go on to testify against Lucky Luciano and send him to prison. Husband Wife pickpocket team Boston and Tillie Meyer and one woman crime wave Bessie London, “the cleverest booster gun-mol in the world.” Big Jack Zelig, another Seigal’s Cafe habitue and heir apparent of the old Monk Eastman gang, used the cafe as his headquarters, as did strikebreaker Dopey Benny Fein and casino tycoon, Sam Paul.

 

Dopey Benny Fein and Waxey Gordon

 

Monahickey of the Humpty Jackson gang played poker cafe’s all night games along with a young pickpocket named Irving Wexler. Wexler was so stealthy that it was said he waxed the wallets he swiped. The nickname stuck, and Waxey Gordon joined Benny Fein’s mob of gorillas in Seigal’s cafe and went on to make millions during prohibition. Jewish private detective, Abe Schoenfield had this to say about Waxey in 1917:

 

“A gangster and a tough man…His notorious deeds would fill many pages…He worked with Dopey Benny and was mixed up in  everything the Dope was interested in.”- Private Investigator, Abe Schoenfield, 1917

 

Dopey Benny Fien, Jewish labor Slugger.

Jewish labor slugger Dopey Benny Fein.

 

Brother Shamus Schoenfield

 

Jewish private investigator Abe Schoenfield recorded much of what we know about Siegal’s Cafe and its denizens. Hired by the New York Kehillah (Jewish community), the gumshoe went undercover, documenting Jewish crime rings, prostitution houses and gambling establishments from 1912 to 1917. Shoenfield was no fan of Siegal’s. He wrote he’d like to:

 

“Plant a fourteen-inch gun and shoot the damn basement and its hord of carrion flesh into perdition.”–Private Investigator, Abe Schoenfield

 

Despite his hatred of Sigal’s cafe, the detective maintained the highest opinion of Big Jack Zelig, the Jewish Mobs’ shining knight.

 

The regulars at Seigal’s: 1 Casino tycoon Sam Pal. 2 Bald Jack Rose, the man who brought down Zelig. 3. Big Jack Zelig

The regulars at Seigal’s: 1 Casino tycoon Sam Paul. 2 Bald Jack Rose, the man who brought down Zelig. 3. Big Jack Zelig

 

Big Jack Zelig And The Boys of the Avenue

 

Big Jack Zelig, leader of the notorious Boys of the Avenue hung his derby at Siegal’s, the unofficial headquarters of his gang: The Boys of the Avenue. Zelig’s ace cokehead triggermen, Lefty Louis and Whitey Lewis, could be found on the regular when they weren’t blasting people or breaking spinal columns for fun and profit. After nights of undercover work, Schoenfield became enamored with the deadly Zelig. He wrote:

 

“Zelig cleared the East Side of Italians who were wont to hold up stuss houses and legitimate places. He cleared the east side of Italians who could be seen walking through the streets with Jewish girls whom they were working into prostitution. He prevented more holdups and other things of a similar nature during his career than one thousand policemen.”–Abe Schoenfield.

 

Jack Zelig's cocaine addled triggermen, Lefty Louie and Gyp the blood, gunned down Herman Rosenthal in the murder of the century.

Jack Zelig’s cocaine addled triggermen, Lefty Louie and Gyp the blood (seated), gunned down Herman Rosenthal in the murder of the century.

 

Despite Zeligs gallantry and reputation, forces outside of the Jewish Underworld were moving to put him on the spot. Set to testify in the Herman Rosenthal murder case, Zelig strutted out of Siegal’s cafe and jumped on a streetcar headed for his doom. Just as the trolley passed Thirteenth Street a gunman hopped on the running boards and fired into Zeligs head, killing him instantly. Without Zelig, Siegal’s fell from popularity and eventually closed.

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Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Location: Union Square, Fourth Ave and 14th Street

Status: Standing

‘Twas the morning after Christmas, 1920, when police officers stumbled on the lifeless body of Monk Eastman sprawled out in a gutter just south of the Union Square subway station. One of the toughest mugs in New York City’s history, the Monk had survived half a dozen street wars up and down the Lower East Side, several terms in Sing Sing, and the trenches of WWI. (Click to read about Monk Eastman in WWI)

Monk came back from the war a hero and won a full pardon from Governor Alfred E. Smith, but now several weeks later; Eastman was dead.

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman died in the gutter of Union Square.

Boozing at the Bluebird Cafe

Christmas evening began like most days for Eastman, with a little prohibition-era binge drinking at the Bluebird Cabaret, No. 62 East 14th Street. Monk and a pack of heavies, including corrupt Prohibition Agent, Jerry Bohan, strolled into the Bluebird, sat at their reserved table and got merry. According to Neil Hanson, author of Monk Eastman, Monk boasted to a showgirl:

 

“Do you know who I am? I’m Monk Eastman, the gang leader who made good…” –Neil Hanson, Monk Eastman

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman had survived turn of the century street wars of the Lower East Side, and the trenches of the First World War, but on the morning after Christmas, 1920; Eastman was found face down in the gutter.

The Brain’s Brawn- Arnold Rothstein and Monk Eastman

But the $144 bankroll in his pocket, the fine Witty Brother’s suit and the gold spectacles found on Eastman’s body told another story. Eastman had hired his fearsome reputation out to the highest bidder, and that bidder turned out to be the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein. Jerome Charyn noted in Gangster and Goldiggers,

 

“It seems the Monk had been bootlegging and selling dope for The Brain. A.R. was never implicated, of course.”—Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Eastman was once the prince of the Lower East Side, but opium addiction and prison sentences destroyed his kingdom.

Monk Eastman a Rat?

Emotions were high at the Bluebird that night. Monk Eastman was running his mouth about quitting crime, making good and becoming an honest citizen, talk that made his bootlegger pals nervous. Little did he know, Eastman’s buddies had put him on the spot, and Bohan was the trigger-man.

When Eastman drunkenly stumbled onto the street, Bohan followed with a .32 caliber pistol in his hand. Just as Eastman crossed 14th street, the crooked Prohibition Agent opened fire into Monk’s back.

An eyewitness described the scene:

“A man was standing over him and as we reached the window we saw him fire four more shots into the man on the sidewalk… the murderer bent over his victim a moment, presumably to make sure he was dead…”

Bohan then hopped into a waiting taxicab and sped off into the night. Several days later, under the pressure of a police manhunt, Bohan walked into the Lee Avenue police station in Brooklyn and confessed to the crime, claiming self defense as his motive. The corrupt Prohibition Agent was sentenced to three to ten years for manslaughter (Click for newspaper story) and Eastman was buried with full military honors in the gangland funeral of the decade.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

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