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The Theater That Was a ‘Weapon in the Class Struggle’

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th street in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

In June 1931, with America’s working class still deep in the grip of the Great Depression, a handful of actors in New York City performed Art is a Weapon, a skit first adapted by the New York’s Workers’ Laboratory Theatre. It begins with a Capitalist, with a “silk topper and over-refined accent,” making his declaration about the limited uses of art. The workers respond by making the distinction between proletarian and bourgeois art; between art intended to amuse and enlighten the elite and art meant to liberate workers.

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Cracking the Case of the Mystery Safes in the Speakeasy Basement

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

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(Photo: Nigar Hacizade)

If you walked into a building expecting to see a regular museum, but found an apartment-sized living room with minimal, seemingly random paraphernalia, unremarkable oil paintings and posters on the walls, and a $20 admission charge, what kind of review would you post on TripAdvisor? Would your visit even be long enough to merit one? And yet 56 of 70 reviews for the The Museum of the American Gangster, on the second floor of 78-80 Saint Marks Place, described it as “excellent” or “very good.” Half the reviewers on Yelp gave the place five stars. The glowing assessments have something in common: they all caution the visitor to get over any initial disappointment and enjoy the guided tour.

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The Hard-Fightin’, Hard-Tumblin’ German Gymnasts of 4th Street

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

German immigrant board Hamburg steamer

“From the old to the new world—German emigrants for New York embarking on a Hamburg steamer.” Harper’s Weekly, 1974. (Library of Congress.)

Yesterday New York was AS GERMAN AS BERLIN and any one on the Bowery might have fancied himself unter den Linden. Germany bubbled up everywhere and the substantial joy of substantial Teutonia foamed LIKE A HUGE FLAGON OF LAGER. – New York Herald, April 11, 1871

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For Over a Century, a Home For Women Who’ve ‘Sunk So Low’

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

Exterior of 10 Second Avenue, when it was home to the Isaac Hopper Home, 1930 (Courtesy of Women's Prison Association)

Exterior of 110 Second Avenue, when it was home to the Isaac Hopper Home, 1930 (Courtesy of Women’s Prison Association)

On May 31, 1848, Maria Seaboth, a 14-year-old orphan, showed up at the door of  the second location of the Isaac T. Hopper Home, a halfway house for women just released from prison at Tenth Avenue and 21st Street. Life couldn’t have been worse. She was destitute, homeless, and friendless and had been wandering from place to place, taking shelter in “various filthy and disgusting abodes,” the matron’s diary recorded as she observed the couple of dozen women in her charge.

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Before the Puerto Rican Poets, There Was the Polish Violinist

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

(Photo: Shanna Ravindra for NY Mag)

(Photo: Shanna Ravindra for NY Mag)

The entrance to the Nuyorican Poets Café dissolves into a mural of faceless men standing in line, all dressed in white-hat-and-suit ensembles, hands stuffed into their pockets. The painting is based on a black and white photograph from the 1980s of spectators waiting outside the Café. To the right of the entrance is a detailed portrait of the Rev. Pedro Pietri, one of the Nuyorican’s founding poets. The murals replicate the artistry of what goes on inside the walls.

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Howl’Ya Honor Ginsberg? By Going to This Beat Poetry Fest

Police cadets reading "Howl" (Photo: Gordon Ball, courtesy of Howl!)

Police cadets reading “Howl” (Photo: Gordon Ball, courtesy of Howl!)

If Allen Ginsberg were still croaking around today, he would’ve just celebrated his 90th birthday. I can see it now– the old man and his expansive beard, its gnarls wafting gently at the rims of coke-bottle glasses. He’d invariably be rocking sandals (whatever to the people locking eye-to-fungi) while boy servants fan him with palm leaves, gently though, so he can still roll those double-sized fatty spliff-spliffs from pages ripped out of On the Road and intermittently flash people from underneath his dashiki. Inevitably, James Franco would be VJing a Howl ft. Grimes remix and everything, everything would be lost.

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Jim Gaffigan Show Goes Back in Time with the Tenement Museum

via The Tenement Museum

via The Tenement Museum

Jim Gaffigan, one of our fave joke spinners and a stalwart crank of the Lower East Side, seems to be up to some new tricks at one of our favorite old neighborhood institutions, the Tenement Museum. The second season of Gaffigan’s eponymous show premieres on TV Land on June 19 (Father’s Day, fitting for the man whose shtick is corralling five kids around town).

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This Passover, There’s Lots O’ Matzo at Museum at Eldridge’s Synagogue Tours

Photo by Kate Milford

Photo by Kate Milford

This is the first Passover in 90 years without Streit’s Matzo in operation on Rivington Street. So what do you do if you get hungry after seeing the new documentary and art exhibit dedicated to the bygone Lower East Side matzo factory? Don’t get tsuris. The Museum at Eldridge Street is offering a taste of the old neighborhood via its Passover-week “Matzo Tours.”

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From the Allen Street Boys to Satan’s Sinners, Street Gangs of the Lower East Side

Clayton Patterson's new book with Jose "Cochise" Quiles, cover photo by Clayton Patterson (Image: Nicole Disser)

Clayton Patterson’s new book with Jose “Cochise” Quiles, cover photo by Clayton Patterson (Image: Nicole Disser)

Last week, Elliot Caldwell was fatally shot outside of Campos Plaza, the NYCHA public housing project where he’d grown up. An EV Grieve commenter noted that the 23-year-old had been arrested in 2013 when the Manhattan DA busted alleged members of the Money Boyz, a coke-dealing gang based out of the East Village housing project. DNAinfo wrote that a woman claiming to be Caldwell’s aunt told reporters: “He was a great father. He changed his life for his son. He just got caught up in a bad situation.”

The NYPD told B+B that the suspect in Caldwell’s shooting is described as a “black male wearing a red hoodie,” who “fled from the scene on foot.” So far there have been no arrests, and police say the investigation is ongoing.

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Hardcore Porn: Two New Docs Take on NYC Hardcore, Its Future and Genesis

Youth of Today (Photo courtesy of New York Hardcore Chronicles)

Youth of Today (Photo courtesy of New York Hardcore Chronicles)

“The only people who shaved their heads in 1981 were Marines and psychopaths,” laughed Drew Stone, the filmmaker behind one of two new documentaries that focus on the New York City hardcore scene, albeit from vastly different angles. For nearly two years, Stone has been immersed in his project, The New York City Hardcore Chronicles, which touches on the past, but focuses mostly on the persistence of hardcore todayTonight at 8:30 pm, he’ll screen excerpts from it at Niagara.

At the opposite end is John Woods, a filmmaker who’s concerned with what he calls “a moment in time”–  a turning point in the NYC hardcore scene of the late ’80s, centered around the release of an influential compilation tape. The documentary, New Breed, which Woods co-created with Freddy Alva and directed, premieres March 30 at Nitehawk. While Stone’s film aims to be an epic take on the scene’s culture, Woods’s doc focuses instead on a singular event to illustrate the trajectory of hardcore.

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Share Your Own (or Grandma’s) Greenpoint Story with this Brooklyn Archival Project

Our Streets Our Stories Community Scanning (Photo by Kavitha Surana)

Our Streets Our Stories Community Scanning (Photo by Kavitha Surana)

Tadusz Chabrowski hands were shaking as he rifled through a pile of photos, looking for his favorite. “Oh here!” he said, pulling out a photo of himself standing in his eyeglasses shop. “When I was young– 100 years younger!” he laughed. His shop, Family Optical, once located at 120 Norman Avenue in Greenpoint, has been closed for 16 years, and yet his memories of the place are still as vivid as ever. 

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