In collaboration with the Lower East Side History Project, OHNY recently offered a unique walking tour covering 150 years of crime and vice in NYC. The two tours– one on Sunday, March 7 and the other this past Sunday, March 28– were led by Eric Ferrara, Executive Director of the Lower East Side History Project and the East Village Visitors Center and author of A Guide to Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Starting on the Bowery, Eric led us through his neighborhood and told us about the history of organized crime in the area, tracing back to immigrants from Sicily. Eric utilized photos, newspaper articles and New York City history to help tell the stories of many of the most powerful and infamous New York City criminals. Some highlights included learning about the tactic of Black Handing, the legacy of McGurk’s Suicide Hall, and countless deals, betrayals, shootouts and assassination attempts.

We followed the history of several of the major crime families and individuals who led them. As we walked passed the site of many of these incidents, what was once a headquarters, cafe or speakeasy is now become a high end hair salon, contemporary condo or four-star hotel. As Eric pointed out throughout the tour, gentrification has completely altered the LES and changed the landscape where these events once took place.

Eric, talking to the group

This is a great tour– very colorful– and it gives you a glimpse into what life might have been like in the Lower East Side during that time. It did not seem like there were many options! For more information on these tours, please see their website.

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