A 1996 East Village murder remains unsolved

Abe Lebewohl had a routine, his employees later told police.

Every morning around nine, the 64-year-old owner of the Second Avenue Deli would take the previous day’s earnings from the 10th Street restaurant, then drive to a bank on Fourth Street and make a deposit.


On March 4, 1996, he got to the bank, but never made it inside. According to a 2010 New York Post story, “at least two thugs approached him as he sat in his van and pumped three bullets into him.

“The monsters dragged Lebewohl into the back of van and drove one block before fleeing the vehicle with his black shoulder bag that held the $8,000 deposit and his wallet containing another $2,000.” Lebewohl lay mortally wounded.

AbelebewohlparkThe cold-blooded killing was all the more stunning because Lebewohl was so well-liked and embraced by the community.

Born in the Ukraine, he came to New York with his family in 1950 after years in a refugee camp in Italy.

He worked as a waiter at a coffee shop on Second Avenue and 10th Street, then bought the property, turning it into a Jewish culinary institution that served locals and celebrities.

His generosity was legendary. “[Sic] he often provided free food to homeless people, striking workers, and neighborhood events,” states the web page for Abe Lebewohl Park, a small space across Second Avenue dedicated in his honor (above).

Secondavenuedeli2At first, cops had a solid clue. Soon after the slaying, they found the murder weapon, a handgun, in Central Park.

But after chasing false leads and circulating thousands of witness sketches of the suspects, the case went cold.

Seventeen years later—after the Second Avenue Deli moved to midtown and the Upper East Side and the old location has become another bank branch—the men behind the murder remain at large.

[Top photo: 2ndavedeli.com; middle: NYC Parks Department; bottom: Forbes.com]

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7 Responses to “A 1996 East Village murder remains unsolved”

  1. Ellen Levitt Says:

    So sad! I loved the 2nd Ave Deli. Great site, fun food. I’m glad my daughters went there, but they were so young. I had a birthday party there at least once. I was a fan of the Molly Picon Room.

  2. OyiaBrown Says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  3. The Day | Rockwood Starts Record Label - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    […] Looking back on an unsolved murder: “The cold-blooded killing was all the more stunning because [Abe] Lebewohl was so well-liked and embraced by the community.” [Ephemeral NY] […]

  4. BabyDave Says:

    That may be tricky. I have a feeling the good folks at Chase Manhattan don’t really care much about the Walk of Fame.

  5. Maryann Says:

    The Deli was never the same.

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