Posts Tagged ‘East Village gangs’

Monk Eastman’s notorious Bronx gang fight

May 11, 2011

Even in gang-ridden 19th century New York, with mobsters being rubbed out by rival thugs with guns and other weapons all the time, the old-fashioned fistfight was still used to solve disputes.

That’s what happened in the turf war between criminal Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly, leader of the Five Points Gang.

The simian, wild-haired Eastman (right) controlled Chrystie Street to East 14th Street, wrote Andrew Roth in Infamous Manhattan.

Paul Kelly (below), a dapper Italian with an Irish name, ruled west of Bowery.

Both gangs were under the thumb of Tammany Hall politicos. Tired of their gun battles over disputed neutral territory, Tammany brass organized an old-school fight in a barn in the Bronx in 1903 between the two men.

This “fist duel,” as a 1923 New York Times article dubbed it, didn’t solve a thing.

Eastman and Kelly went at each other in that barn for hours before it was called a draw.

The turf war mostly resolved itself when Eastman was sent to Sing Sing for robbery in 1904, then fought in World War I (he became a decorated soldier).

Kelly had control of the Lower East Side until 1908, when a deadly gun battle—and then Tammany Hall’s desire to clean up the Bowery—reduced his criminal power.

A shootout on St. Mark’s Place, 1914

April 24, 2009

Born in 1889 on the Lower East Side, Benjamin “Dopey Benny” Fein was an East Side labor racketeer and extortist. Fein was a powerful guy at the time, but he had a rival: mobster and fellow racketeer Jack Sirocco.

dopeybennyfeinmug

The Lower East Side/East Village area was Jewish gangster territory then. So it was a brazen move when Sirocco rented out 19-25 St. Mark’s Place—a community center called Arlington Hall—for a ball on January 9, 1914. 

Before the ball began, Fein assembled his boys behind doorways near Arlington Hall, planning to rub out Sirocco. Shots were fired, but the only person hit was a bystander and city clerk named Frederick Strauss. Strauss was killed, and Fein was questioned by police (but not charged).

arlingtonhall

After the Arlington Hall shootout, Sirocco’s power intensified while Fein’s grip slipped. He was arrested and sent to prison several times over the years and died in 1962.

That’s about the time when Arlington Hall (pictured above today, in its current incarnation as kind of a minimall) had its resurgence. In the mid-60s, it housed a couple of counterculture clubs: the lower level was The Dom, while the upper floors became the Electric Circus, a popular rock venue that lasted until 1971.