A Lot about a plot

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9 Doyers Street and the Gangs of New York Scorsese Didn’t Tell Us About

Martin Scorsese’s 2002  film Gangs of New York is a glimpse into the power struggles that plagued the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan in the late 19th century. It addresses universal and timeless themes of xenophobia and resistance to immigration, but limits the emphasis of its story to the ongoing battle between the so-called “Natives”—those whose parents arrived in America as early as the 1600s—and the “Dead Rabbits” and other Irish gangs that emerged as the Irish population grew three centuries later. But Herbert Asbury’s 1928 eponymous book, on which Scorsese based his film, features many other gangs of the era, the most prominent of them the Hip Sings and the On Leongs, whose activity centered on Chinatown’s Doyers Street. More →

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A Home For Little Wanderers, and the Occasional Arsonist

1940s Tax Lot photo. Credit: New York City Department of Records.

The Saturday before Christmas, 1921, near Third Avenue and 12th Street, a truck struck and killed little Amelia Laredo, who was on her way to buy a present. She was living just around the corner at the Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers, a Protestant-run orphanage housed in the four-story red brick-and-frame townhouse at 225 East 11th Street. On Saturdays, Jennie Hudson, the mission superintendent, would give each child a dime for the movies but that day, Amelia told her friends that she was going to use the money to buy a Christmas gift for her brother, a cripple, who was in Brooklyn Hospital.  More →

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The Sip-In That ‘Legalized Gay Bars’ Before Stonewall

The building in 1969 and 50 years later in 2019. Courtesy Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

On the quiet corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place, one of New York’s oldest watering holes has been operating since around 1864. It bore the name Julius’ sometime in the 1920s. Even Prohibition, during which the tavern transformed into a bustling speakeasy, had minimal impact on Julius’ operations. On April 21, 1966, three years before the riots at Stonewall occurred a block away, a gay rights milestone gave the West Village bar its status as legend, paving the way for the city’s legitimate LGBTQ establishments.  More →

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The Village East Cinema: From Yiddish Theater to Arthouse Cinema

Image via cinematreasures.org

On Nov. 16, the Village East Cinema held a special screening of The Room, a maybe-the-worst-film-ever classic that has become a cult phenomenon. The screening included a talkback with the eccentric writer/producer/star/financier Tommy Wiseau. Screenings of the movie have become something of an event since it first hit theaters in 2003, even inspiring a critically acclaimed movie by James Franco, The Disaster Artist. More →

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A Tale of Two Evas: Marriage, Deceit and the Underground Baby Trade


Sketch from Jan. 14, 1891 edition of the “Evening World.”

Robert Ray Hamilton was 37 years old when he met his daughter for the first time. A year and a half later, he would die more famous than he had ever been, a tragic chump in a scandal that transfixed newspaper readers across the country. But in early January 1889, as he ducked past the Third Avenue Railway and entered a flat at 208 E. 14th St., the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton could still make sense of his life. He was a well-respected state assemblyman, he owned real estate all over New York City, and descended from one of the young nation’s founding fathers. More →

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How Mariners’ Temple Survived Fire and Flux in Chinatown

Mariners’ Temple today. (Photo: Kayla Stewart)

On September 21, 1845, Rev. William R., Williams preached a sermon entitled “God’s presence in his sanctuary,” welcoming congregants back to their new edifice at 12 Oliver Street—or 3 Henry Street, depending on whom you ask. This was already one of New York City’s first Baptist churches, and it would continue to make history by serving every surrounding immigrant community. It would be the first church in the United States led by a black woman, and it would welcome predominantly black congregants near the heart of a bustling Chinatown, carrying a unique version of the message of hope and inclusion for all who walked through it doors. More →

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After Peter Luger, a Chophouse With Stakes in the New Williamsburg

Williamsburg Bridge in 1991 (Photo by Jet Lowe/Library of Congress)

At the end of October, Pete Wells didn’t use his knife to cut through Peter Luger’s vaunted porterhouse— instead he drove it directly into the heart of the 132-year-old steakhouse. “What gnaws at me every time I eat a Luger porterhouse is the realization that it’s just another steak,” Wells wrote in his review for the New York Times, “and far from the best New York has to offer.” He awarded the restaurant zero stars, his words as cold as the disappointing German fried potatoes. The same day, the New York Times released a (perhaps prematurely) companion article: “Readers Respond to the Pete Wells Review of Peter Luger: ‘Finally.’” This was a hit job, through and through.  More →

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From Governor’s Mansion to Russian Anarchist Hotbed

Drawing from Khleb Y Volia’s opening editorial; the caption reads, “Clear the road, old world,” while the flag reads Union of Russian Workers.

On Nov. 7, 1919, the second anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, US federal agents and New York City policemen, armed with clubs and blackjacks, raided a Manhattan apartment full of Russian-speaking immigrants at the headquarters of a Russian anarchist association. Inside were a few devoted anarchists belonging to the Union of Russian Workers and more than 200 undereducated Russian immigrants who were more or less clueless of the union’s full intent. “Wanton cruelty” and “brutality” was how the sociaist New York Call described the actions of the authorities during the raid. They arrested the immigrants, bloodied and bruised, jailed them, and tried them for sedition. Six weeks later, the USS Buford, an army transport ship the press jeeringly dubbed “the Soviet ark,” set sail from Ellis Island with 249 people aboard in the first mass deportation in US history.  More →