Wednesday, March 22, 2006

205 West 54th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > West 54th Street

Spirits that broke the law of probabilities rather than the Volstead Act appeared early yesterday morning at Texas Guinan's Club Intime [203 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 7th Avenue] to entertain a selected circle of Manhattan celebrities.

Miss Guinan was giving a party, and it took the form of a spiritualistic seance, reported The N.Y. Times [5 March 1929].
• • As actress Ethel Barrymore, The New Yorker's Heywood Broun, and Park Avenue swells held hands, apparitions appeared. According to The Times, "First the spirit of Rudolph Valentino strummed the gay guitar. Then the ghost of Arnold Rothstein avoided astutely a question as to who shot him." [It's known where the gun was found but what does that prove, right?]

• • Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Ziegler (of 575 Park Avenue) left early with a Viennese guest Margot Colin, who didn't like spooks and "all that darkness with white hands in the air and everything." That's when Margot discovered her jewels were missing.
• • Curiously, Mae West's name doesn't come up. However, the Broadway headliner was living here in April 1928, right after "Diamond Lil" opened on Broadway to great acclaim. Then called the Hotel Harding, this 12-story building also housed the mobster Jack "Legs" Diamond and Texas Guinan's gun-toting nightclub manager Hyman "Feets" Edson. Also located here was the speakeasy Club Abbey, where Dutch Schultz was shot in a turf battle over Broadway beer-running rights in 1931.
• • Texas Guinan got Mae West interested in seances in 1926.
• • Certainly, since the residents witnessed enough bloodshed, murder, and mayhem on the premises, it must have been child's play to summon up at least a few ghosts.
• • During the run of "Diamond Lil," Mae bought her own townhouse and moved out.
• • Subsequently, the Hotel Harding was renamed "Hotel Alba" to distance the building from all of the horrifying rub-outs and scandals that occurred here when the area was known as the Tenderloin.
• • Have all the prostitutes, druglords, crack addicts, and unsavoury types moved out? Ha-ha-ha. The ghosts don't believe that for a minute.
___ ___
Add to Google

• • Photo: 205 West 54th Street •

Real Estate

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 16, 2006

21 East 9th Street

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > East 9th Street

Built during the 19th century for America's royalty, the 30-feet-wide rowhouse at 21 East 9th Street [between Fifth Avenue & University Place] has fallen on hard times. Chopped up into chicken-coop sameness, the interior has a sliver of an elevator that services twenty studio apartments under a penthouse - - and Arte, a street-level eatery with a "no stars" rating and a vista that overlooks the ramp of The Brevoort's parking garage.

• • Tailpipe-fanciers from the Bronx dine here. The urban al fresco seeker can choose from not one but TWO tables poised along the narrow 9th Street sidewalk. If the wind is right, odors from the pet clinic next door will remind your nostrils of Rover or Fido as Tony serves your minestrone.

• • But speaking of 21 East 9th's FALLING from grace, James Robb, a dashing waiter at CRU [where the executive chef is Shea Gallante, and the wine portfolio could serve Madison Square Garden] heard and saw a 6-foot-long shutter snap off the facade, and plunge to the pavement on the windy afternoon of March 15, 2006.
• • "I couldn't tell if this projectile was made of iron or wood," said Robb, "but I could see that the woman carrying a hefty Gristede's shopping bag didn't see it coming. As I crossed 9th Street, I began dialing 911 on my cellphone."
• • "We were waist-deep in a ditch," explained Con Ed worker Joseph Putney, "when something clattered against the side of a building. A waiter was on the sidewalk, smoking. I told my buddy, 'Looks like somebody threw a table-top off the roof!' That lady's going to get clobbered."

• • Aftermath: shaken and stirred - - but not broken.
• • Department of Buildings complaint # 1161883.
• • Sixth Precinct Aided Report # 254 by Police Officer Taylor.
• • This house had a history of colorful residents before it was reconfigured into a sardine-can cellblock.
• • For many years, banker Aquila G. Stout lived here with his hearty socially-active wife Ann Morris Stout [1806-1900] and their daughter Sarah Morris Stout [1834-1904], who married a Baron A. deVaugrigneuse, but never had children. Mrs. Aquila G. Stout hosted many meetings of The Society of Colonial Dames (an organization founded on West 9th St.). When the French baron died, Sarah returned to the mother-ship, and inherited this house and holdings worth $500,000+ "in trust" when mama died in 1900 - - since Sarah was quite senile and required a legal loop-de-loop spun around her funds. Sadly, the trustees of the Baroness's inheritance were untrustworthy and lawsuits were hurled at them by assorted blue-blooded relatives.
• • Arthur Garfield Hays [1881-1954] bought the leasehold to this property and held it until it was sold by his estate in 1957. Intent on income, Hays had this once-gracious rowhouse stripped of its stoop, and carved into 19 measly apartments and a store. Named after three presidents, the short and stock attorney made his living from a corporate practice in New York, but was most drawn to defending society's underdogs - - usually without charge. Described as a person of "genuine sympathy and understanding," Arthur Garfield Hays was active in many cases concerned with civil liberties. He distinguished himself as a defender in the Scopes Case (1925) in Tennessee, and in the Sacco-Vanzetti Case (1927). He was counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and conducted the investigation of civil liberties in Puerto Rico (1937). He wrote Let Freedom Ring (1928, rev. ed. 1937), Democracy Works (1939), and an autobiography City Lawyer (1942). Working on the Scopes trial with Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, Hays saw this as an opportunity to educate the public about evolution. At the close of the trial, Hays sent Judge Raulston a copy of The Origin of the Species.
• • In 1939, Juanita Medbury [1901-1939], who illustrated for McCall's Magazine, committed suicide in her tiny apartment at 21 E. 9th by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
• • In 1946, 21 E. 9th resident Jesse R. Sprague, 74, an author of books and magazine fiction died. His work had been published in Harper's, Scribner's, The Saturday Evening Post, The American Mercury, etc.
• • In 1988, a restaurant opened on the ground-floor.
___ ___
Add to Google

• • Photos: 21 East 9th Street • St. Vincent's Hospital

Real Estate

Thursday, March 09, 2006

218 Lafayette Street

Manhattan > SoHo > Lafayette Street

In 1868, when this sleepy tumble-down thoroughfare was still called ELM STREET, a group of actors fond of drinking founded a fraternal order - - The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks - - in a cheap boarding house at 188 Elm Street at the NW corner of what is now the intersection of Broome and Lafayette Streets. The club, chartered to give them generous drinking privileges, was named for an animal considered to be gregarious, gentle, and strong.
• • For years this was a patchwork precinct filled with cheap lodgings and real estate risks. For decades, the Board of Aldermen debated the demerits of Elm Street [which ambled from busy City Hall Place up to the far loftier Lafayette Place], and then spent ten years widening it and disrupting it with subway construction, pinching feet and inches away from property owners as the city planners constructed a wider LAFAYETTE STREET to relieve the excessive traffic on Broadway. Consequently, few buildings were being built on Elm Street for fear NYC would nab the sidewalk and slice it away from an owner's shrinking lot size.
• • As Elm Street became Lafayette Street, the imperfectly widened byway left behind many oddly proportioned ugly parcels known as "gore lots." Italian immigrants settled there when a mini building boom began in 1909.
• • Though Daniel Brady's family owned land on Elm Street from 1862, they never "improved" it. In September 1909 the first building on 218 Lafayette Street took shape when Michele Briganti put a 6-story store and loft building on Brady's 25' x 100' lot. His architect was Charles M. Straub.
• • Italian names dominated this unprepossessing stretch of Lafayette between Spring and Broome Street years before John A. Zaccaro took over this building and its adjoining property in 1981. And real estate owners were tenacious - - largely because no one wanted to buy these booby prizes. As a result, 218 Lafayette remained in one family's hands from 1862-1942.
• • Several petty criminals resided at this address over the years and no businesses seemed to thrive - - not even the bootleggers who ran a speakeasy disguised as a trattoria called Monte Rosa. One notable who lived here was Angelo M. Rizzo [1848-1924], who arrived in 1874 as a poor Italian laborer and got a job lighting lamps around town. Later, as a contractor, Rizzo got the job of installing gas lamps throughout New York City. Active in politics and a benefactor of immigrants in the Fourteenth Ward, Rizzo was horrified when Joseph Petrosino, Chief of the Italian Bureau of the New York Detectives, was murdered in Sicily [March 1909]. Rizzo paid his respects to the Petrosino family who resided across the street (at 233 Lafayette Street).
• • By 1959, no one lived here. The tenement was converted to offices and light manufacturing.
• • By 1966, the city condemned the property and slated it (along with surrounding structures) for "urban renewal."
• • Despite that, in 1981 when NYC had gone bankrupt, Philip Zaccaro and his 48-year-old son John acquired it intact and began advertising a "Vacant SoHo Building" (5 stories + basement) with a cast-iron facade for sale. There were no takers.
• • In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro's vice presidential quest brought new scrutiny to her husband's real estate empire headquartered at 216-218 Lafayette St. Though Geraldine relinquished her White House dreams before the newspapers FULLY disclosed Zaccaro's ties to Gambino crime boss Aniello Dellacroce as well as "D.B." [child-pornography king Robert DiBernardo, the president of Star Distributors] who ruled an empire of X-rated slime from two Zaccaro-owned buildings along Lafayette St. - - until John Gotti shot him in 1986 - - John Zaccaro was indicted and pled guilty in January 1985. Ferraro's campaign sank faster than the Titanic.
• • Big Apple Tour Guide Alert! Infamous "D.B." (played by actor Frank Vincent) co-starred in HBO movie "Gotti" aired August 1996.
• • Unable to rent his groundfloor, Zaccaro gave favorable terms to a chef with French bistro dreams who opened L' Aubiniere at 218 Lafayette Street in 1991. Few customers came and the restaurant closed but Zaccaro decided to build an eatery his son would run and he partnered with a popular chef with a following, Tom Valenti. Rated two stars, Cascabel filled its 120 seats from 1993-1998 - - but when Valenti exited, so did the crowds.
• • In 1998 Frank Giovanetti installed Oona there. Ruth Riechl upbraided the kitchen for its lack of adventure, very few diners were lured there, and Oona tanked in August 1999. He got the message: nothing lives here.
• • Dorrian's Red Hand is the Upper East Side ginmill where pretty Jennifer Levin rendez-voused with Robert Chambers, who choked her in Central Park one summer night in 1986.
• • Dorrians go downtown. The Dorrians, a controversial New York pub family, took over the struggling street-level space and opened The Falls. According to news reports, owners Michael and Danny Dorrian are the grandsons of John "Red" Dorrian, a one-time IRA gunman who came here in 1921, penniless and with a price on his head. Red worked as a bootlegger in Midtown speakeasies - - where his patrons included columnist Walter Winchell and the womanizing "Night Mayor" Jimmy Walker.

• • • Enter an ELK: gregarious, gentle, and strong-minded Imette St. G. • • •

• • After 4AM Saturday, 25 February 2006, 24-year-old John Jay College of Criminal Justice graduate student Imette St. Guillen was kidnapped, assaulted, and brutally murdered after leaving The Falls Bar. That night at 8:43PM an anonymous male, calling from a free payphone near a Brooklyn diner, directed police to her tortured, nude body, dumped about 15 miles away from 218 Lafayette Street.
• • Suspected is a 200-lb African-American convict, who was violating parole by working as a bouncer here. For he's a jolly good felon . . . Hiring inmates with aliases: is this a trend? Or is it just a preference for these working-off-the-books types copied from East Village eateries?
• • State Liquor Authority: another round?
• • A State Supreme Court Judge who writes thrillers and reads this blog said Zaccaro is in deep doo-doo as well. Stay tuned.
___ ___
Add to Google

• • Photos: 218 Lafayette Street - The Falls

Real Estate

Saturday, March 04, 2006

133 East 56th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > East 56th Street

In palmier times, a well-regarded restaurant was located on the street level: Madame Romaine DeLyonn. Food writer Clementine Haskin Paddleford [1900 - 1967] dined here and included some of Madame R's recipes in her New York Herald Tribune columns; she was their columnist from 1936 - 1966.
• • Currently, P.J. Carney's, a pub for noisy Irish drunks, is on the tiny [16' X 42'] site.
• • Upstairs, in Apartment 3-F, is the lovenest maintained by KY-Jelly bulk-buyer James Colliton, age 41, a father of 5 children (bunking at 28 Millbank Road, Poughkeepsie, NY with Mrs. James Colliton) who used to be employed as a tax attorney by Cravath, Swaine & Moore. SWAIN indeed! The lolita-loving sex fiend kept an underage harem on tap, reported yesterday's New York Law Journal and The New York Daily News.
• • The youngsters were forced into prostitution by their work-averse mommy, age 38, when her daughters were then 13 and 15. [The female who dropped a dime on "Big Jim" Colliton is now 21 years old.] James Colliton's birthdate is April 10th, 1964.
• • "I was paid $300 or $400 depending on what I had to do," the minor told police. "And I had to do NASTY things." The teen was also given marijuana, tickets to rap concerts, jewelry, a computer, and a TV - - but her mother grabbed those items as well as half the cash.
• • The building's sign says "Apartment for Rent." Y'all come over. Meet the neighbors.
___ ___
Add to Google

• • Photos: 133 East 56th Street - 16 feet X 42 feet

Real Estate