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Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side’

Organized, politically connected and deadly, by the 1870s the gangs of New York had metastasized from leaderless hordes of criminals of the Civil War era into a cancerous pox, directed and controlled by New York’s political machine, Tammany Hall. With names like the Dead Rabbits, the Whyos, The Monk Eastmans, and The Five Pointers, gangs became a hallmark of New York politics in the early 20th Century.

 

Under Tammany Hall’s Bowery Assembly leader, Big Tim Sullivan, organized crime emanated out of the Five Points, spreading throughout the slums of Manhattan. In exchange for getting out the vote on election day- with smashed ballot boxes, repeat voters and general mayhem, gangsters could rely on Tammany’s lawyers and corrupt judges to keep them well armed and out of jail.

 

Allow this map and Gangs of New York walking tour to take you back to a time when gang warfare plagued the cobblestones of New York.

 

1 The Cradle of the Gangs: The Five Points

Mosco St.

Named for the intersection of five streets which no longer exist, the Five Point was America’s first and worst slum. Comprised of Mulberry St., Anthony St. (now Worth St.), Cross St. (now Mosco), Orange St. (now Baxter), and Little Water St. (no longer exists),  a tiny garbage packed square, known as Paradise Square, was located at the intersection of the Five Points.

 

Originally called Cross St., Mosco Street is one of the last unchanged blocks that made up the Five Points ghetto.

Originally called Cross St., Mosco Street is one of the last remaining blocks that made up the Five Points ghetto.

 

Born and raised in the Five Points, Big Tim Sullivan grew up in a Five Points saloon, despite the fact that he never drank a drop of booze in his life. As a child he became a prominent newsy and with the help of local politician Fatty Walsh, Sullivan opened a bar in the heart of the Five Points, which became regular hangout of the Whyos.

 

The Domain of the Whyos, the Corner of Mulberry Bend and Mosco Street in the old Five Points.

The Domain of the Whyos, the Corner of Mulberry Bend and Mosco Street in the old Five Points.

 

2 Mulberry Bend

Click for the complete story of Mulberry Bend

For generations, the New York underworld gathered in the Mulberry Bend, a maze of back alleys. From the Dead Rabbits and the Whyos to the Gambino Crime Family, the Bend’s horrific conditions incubated the gangs of New York.

 

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In the 1880s, Mulberry Bend represented one of the worst slums in world. This a Jacob Riis photo of Bandits Roost. Image via the Museum of The City of New York.

 

In the 1700s, Mulberry street was named for an idyllic grove of Mulberry trees on the banks of the Collect Pond. In the early-1810s, the population of the Five Points exploded. Slaughterhouses choked the shores of the Collect and shanty towns sprouted up, turning the area into a diseased bog, forcing the city to drain and fill the pond. By the time of the Potato Famine, the Bend ranked as one of the densely populated urban areas in the world.

 

Whyos_Gang_Members_Collage

The Whyos. Top row left to right: Baboon Connolly, Josh Hines, Bull Hurley
Middle row left to right: Clops Connelly, Dorsey Doyle, Googy Corcaran
Bottom row left to right: Mike Lloyd, Piker Ryan, Red Rocks Farrell

 

A warren alleys with names such as Rag Picker’s Row and Bandit’s Roost, the underworld came to roost in the Bend’s unconventional architecture. At one point or another, the Dead Rabbits, the Roche Guards, the Whyos, The Five Pointers and the Mafia all called Mulberry Bend home.

 

All that remains of Mulberry Bend today, is a tiny sliver of land on the east side of Columbus Park.

All that remains of Mulberry Bend today, is a tiny sliver of land on the east side of Columbus Park.

 

During the Civil War, the Dead Rabbits, an Irish street gang, headquartered their gang on Mulberry Street where they battled anti-Irish nativist American Gangs like The Bowery Boys and Bill the Butcher Poole. By the 1870s, a gang called the Whyos, known for their war-cry “WHY-O”, dominated Mulberry Street and the Five Points. Formed by Dandy Johnny Dolan, a well-coiffed killer with axe blades embedded in his fighting boots, and Danny Lyons, a homicidal pimp, the Whyos became the first true organized gang on Manhattan, offering services like beatings and contract killings.

 

3 Columbus Park: The End of Mulberry Bend

Armed with nothing more than a camera, Jacob Riis explored the back alleys, saloons and rear tenements of the Five Points, documenting the squalor of the Bend and other slums. Riis published his work in a landmark text titled: How the Other Half Lives. A best seller, Riis’ book led to the demolition of Mulberry Bend and the heart of the Five Points.

 

The city demolished Mulberry Bend in 1897 and created Mulberry Bend Park which was later renamed Columbus Park.

The city demolished Mulberry Bend in 1897 and created Mulberry Bend Park which was later renamed Columbus Park.

 

In 1897, the city erected Five Points Park on the newly cleared land, hoping that the clean air and grass would reduce crime and give children a play to play. The largely Italian population of Mulberry Street later renamed the park Columbus Park in 1910.

 

4 The Tombs

125 White Street

The Tombs may be the most infamous site on Manhattan Island. Built as a holding tank for accused criminals awaiting trial in 1838, the Tombs or Halls of Justice brought law and order and a modern criminal justice system to the city.

 

Constructed in 1838 on top of the old Collect Pond, Manhattan’s Halls of Justice or Tombs was built to house prisoners awaiting trial.

Constructed in 1838 on top of the old Collect Pond, Manhattan’s Halls of Justice or Tombs was built to house prisoners awaiting trial.

 

Designed by the visionary architect John Haviland to resemble an Egyptian sepulcure, the Tombs stood in the heart of the Five Points on unstable landfill on top of the old Collect Pond. Soon after its construction, the granite prison began to sink into the waterlogged soil.

 

A pedestrian bridge that separated the men and women’s cells became known as the Bridge of Sighs because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows. Whyo leaders Danny Lyons and Dandy Johnny Driscoll were hanged in the Tombs in 1876.

 

Criminals called this walkway, The Bridge of Sighs, because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows.

Criminals called this walkway The Bridge of Sighs, because death row inmates would have to walk across this bridge to the gallows.

 

By the 1880s, the Halls of Justice packed over 400 inmates into a leaky, sinking, diseased structure. In 1902, city officials raised the old tombs, replacing it with a Norman castle tower, but a century later, the name stuck and the Tombs can still be found on White Street today.

 

5-Tombs-2

By the 1880s, the Halls of Justice packed over 400 inmates into a leaky, sinking, diseased structure. In 1902, city officials raised the old tombs, replacing it this Norman castle tower.

 

5. 5th Precinct

19 Elizabeth Street

Opened in 1882, the 5th Precinct policed the Five Points, Chinatown, and Little Italy for more than a century, battling the Irish gangs, the Italian Mafia and the Chinese tongs. Designed by The NYPD’s official architect, Nathaniel Bush, the precinct contained 12 cells for women and 16 cells for men.

 

6 The Bloody Angle

Doyers Street

Click for more on the Tong Wars

Chronicler of the Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, described Doyers Street as:

“…a crooked little thoroughfare which runs twistingly, uphill and down from Chatham Square to Pell Street, and with Pell and Mott forms New York’s Chinatown.”–Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games.

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games.

 

For generations the Chinese Gangs of New York, known as Tongs, battled for control Doyers Street’s opium dens and fan-tan games. The Hip Sing Tong, led by  one-man-wrecking crew, Mock Duck, ran Pell Street, while Tom Lee’s On Leongs controlled Mott. Doyers Street served as No-man’s and the rumbles earned the street the nickname, “The Bloody Angle.” The site of many gang wars and massacres, Doyers Street concealed a network of tunnels beneath the street for easy escapes from the police.

 

Doyers Street

Doyers Street

 

7 King of the Bowery:

Big Tim Sullivan’s Occidental Hotel

341 Broome Street (Now the SoHotel)

As the machine age dawned, Big Tim built an empire. He controlled the most powerful gangs in New York and made a name for himself in politics. Using the assistance of the Whyos, Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly,  Sullivan served in the New York State Assembly for 7 years, sat on the NY State Senate from 1809 to 1902, and was elected to U.S. Congress, all while controlling an illegal gambling syndicate that charged gambling parlors a fee for staying in business. From six saloons below 14th street, the members of the Sullivan clan dispensed wisdom, patronage and graft. During Thanksgiving he gave turkeys to the poor and handed out hot dinners on Christmas.

 

Now called the SoHo Hotel, the Occidental Hotel housed Tammany Hall's Big Tim Sullivan and a five year long 24/7 poker game.

Now called the SoHo Hotel, the Occidental Hotel housed Tammany Hall’s Big Tim Sullivan and a five year long 24/7 poker game.

 

In 1905, when Big Tim’s wife divorced him for his crooked and philandering ways, the Big Fella took up residence at the Occidental Hotel. Sullivan could be found 24/7 in the bar room beneath a world-famous nude ceiling fresco of the huntress Diana. According to Bowery legend, the hotel ran a poker game for five straight years without stopping.

 

Tammany Hall's King of the Bowery, Big Tim Sullivan.

Tammany Hall’s King of the Bowery, Big Tim Sullivan.

 

8 Battle of Rivington Street

Rivington and Allen

The Whyos crumbled in the 1890s and two gangs took their place. Split in half by the Bowery, the great street of pleasure, passion and depravity- the Monk Eastman Gang fought Paul Kelly’s Five Pointers for control of gambling houses, opium dens and other Bowery rackets. Monk Eastman’s army of street fighters controlled everything east of the Bowery. To the west, Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang dominated the old Five Points and the ghettos of Little Italy. Big Tim’s patronage allowed both mobs to grow out of control, expanding into each other’s territory with explosive results.

 

9_Rivington_Street_Monk_Eastman_Paul_Kelly

The Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly gangs shot it it out under the elevated train tracks on Rivington Street.

 

On an election day in September 1903, Eastman and some henchmen out repeat voting for the Tammany ticket ran into Kelly’s men on a similar mission. Punches were thrown and Eastman vowed to return. The next day Eastman and his torpedoes dashed into a Five Point saloon and shot the joint to pieces.

 

Paul_Kelly

 

Kelly roused his mob and headed to the intersection of Rivington and Allen Streets for revenge. Kelly found Monk and a crew relaxing under the elevated train tracks. In an instant, a hurricane of lead erupted and the Battle of Rivington Street commenced. According Inspector Schmittberger of the NYPD:

 

“They shot up the town in regular Wild West style.”–NYPD Inspector Schmittberger

 

For nearly an hour, the Eastmans and the Five Pointers shot it out, bobbing and weaving under the steel pillars. It took fifty police officers armed with rifles to break up the rumble. When the smoke cleared, three men were dead and a score wounded.

 

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

 

The police arrested Monk under the alias, William Delaney.  As usual, Tammany hired lawyers beat the charges, but the Hall and Big Tim Sullivan distanced themselves from the uncontrollable Eastman. Monk landed in Sing Sing less than a year later.

 

 

9 Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral

263 Mulberry

Summers in Mulberry Bend could be brutal. The stifling heat and rampant diseases killed thousands every year. To beat the heat every summer, the Whyos moved a few blocks uptown in search of fresh air.

 

Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street.

Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street.

 

According to Herbert Asbury Author of the Gang’s of New York:

“The Whyos maintained their principal rendezvous in Mulberry Bend…although during the summer many of them could always be found lounging in a Churchyard at Park and Mott Streets”–Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

Built as New York’s first St. Patrick’s Cathedral and first Catholic cemetery, the walled Old St. Pat’s looks more like a fortress than a church. Parishioners built heavy brick walls around the grounds for protection during anti-catholic riots led by nativist gangs before the Civil War.

 

Before the Civil War, parishioners fortified St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a brick wall to protect it from anti-Catholic riots.

Before the Civil War, parishioners fortified St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a brick wall to protect it from anti-Catholic riots.

 

In the 1870’s, the Whyos took up residence haunting the graveyard. On any given night, a visitor could find Whyo members: Piker Ryan, Baboon Connolly, Goo Goo Knox and other colorfully named hoodlums.

 

During the Summer, the Whyos loafed around in Old St. Patrick’s cemetery.

During the Summer, the Whyos loafed around in Old St. Patrick’s cemetery.

 

10 McGurk’s Suicide Hall

295 Bowery

Demolished

Opened in 1893, by John McGurk, this low dancehall and brothel catered to prostitutes and female criminals such as famed thief, Sophie Lyons. McGurk, a career shanghaier, made a living luring sailors to his saloons and drugging them with chloral-hydrate with the assistance of his waiter Short-Change Charley and the ferocious bouncer and former champion pugilist, Eat Em Up Jack McManus. In time, McManus’s body became a patchwork quilt of wounds and welts. His front teeth were knocked out.  A knife scar ran across his throat from ear to ear (back before one of his ears was chewed off in McGurk’s).

 

Mcgurks

 

McGurk’s was relatively unknown until a wave of suicides hit the dance floor in 1899. Six prostitutes, tired of their hardscrabble lives, killed themselves in the bar. Ever a humanitarian, McGurk renamed the bar Suicide Hall in an attempt to capitalize on the publicity. Scores of suicide attempts followed. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt ordered the saloon closed in 1903.

 

11 The Death of Eat Em’ Up Jack McManus

Bleecker and Bowery

Click for the complete story of Eat Em Up Jack

After the closure of McGurk’s, Eat Em’ Jack McManus moved into Paul Kelly’s full time employ as a bodyguard. One night, Chick Tricker, a member of the Jack Sirocco clique, drunkenly wandered into Kelly’s Jones Street club and insulted the showgirls. McManus stepped in, throwing Tricker out on his ear. During the scuffle, Jack put two bullets in Tricker’s leg.

 

Death of Eat Em' Up Jack McManus

Without a whisper, a whimper or a groan, Thomas “Eat ‘Em Up Jack” McManus fell face down into his derby.

 

The next day, Eat ‘Em Up Jack walked down the Bowery.  As he reached the corner of Bleeker Street, a burly hoodlum named Sardinia Frank stepped from the shadows clutching a gas pipe wrapped in newspaper (fingerprints could not be lifted from newsprint), and smashed McManus in the back of the head. McManus died in Belleview Hospital calling out for his beloved wife Gertrude. He was 40 years old.

 

12 Little Naples Cafe and New Brighton Athletic Club

57 and 59 Great Jones Street

Click for a longer story on Paul Kelly

Part bareknuckle boxing gym and part red sauce joint, the New Brighton Athletic Club and Little Naples Cafe served as the Paul A. Kelly Association headquarters, an organized hoard of repeat voters, ex-pugilists, pimps, and gangland heavies otherwise known as The Five Points Gang.

 

Little_naples_Today2

Paul Kelly’s New Brighton Athletic Club (right) and the Little Naples Cafe (left) today. Jean Michel Basquiat would later die of an overdose in the loft  above the New Brighton.

 

After the demolition of Mulberry Bend, Kelly led his gang uptown to Jones Street on the fringe of the Bowery. Kelly’s real name was Paolo Antonio Vaccarelli. The police closed the bar after a gunfight in 1905.

 

Paul_Kelly_New_Brighton_Club

 

13 Siegal’s Cafe

76 Second Avenue

Click for the complete story of Siegal’s Cafe

In the wake of the imprisonment of Monk Eastman, the Jewish elements of his mob struck out and formed a new clique centered in a small cafe on Second Avenue. Owned and operated by Big Alec Horlig and Little Louis Siegal, Siegal’s Cafe quickly became the nexus of the Jewish Underworld.

 

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.

 

However, the unpretentious accommodations still attracted a veritable who’s who in the Jewish mob. On any given night, a visitor might find “Jenny the Factory” Fischer, a madam and sometime prostitute who would go on to testify against Lucky Luciano and send him to prison. Big Jack Zelig, another Siegal’s Cafe habitue and heir apparent of the old Monk Eastman Gang, used the cafe as his headquarters, as did strikebreaker Dopey Benny Fein, casino tycoon Sam Paul, and a young pickpocket named Waxey Gordon. Siegal’s Cafe closed after Big Jack Zelig was put on the spot in 1912.

 

Big_Jack_Zelig

Big Jack Zelig, leader of the Jewish Mob hug his derby at Siegal’s Cafe.

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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 find “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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