Five Points. Then.

Much has been written and filmed about Five Points, the notorious downtown neighborhood that was the breeding ground for some of New York’s most violent gangs like The Dead Rabbits and The Bowery Boys. When the ‘hood it comes up in conversation, though, I find that most people don’t know exactly where the real Five Points were…or are. Well, here they are, folks. Right here where Baxter, Park and Worth meet over the south-eastern section of the old Collect Pond.

five points, nyc, new york city, collect pond, greg mchale, jesse shaver, jesse and gregSo what were the factors that made Five Points so frickin’ dangerous and notorious? The short answer…water. Let me shed a little light. Collect Pond was a gorgeous body of water surrounded by rolling hills on the northern reaches of this town when it was settled way back in the 1600′s. It was Manhattan’s main source of water and used as place to swim and sunbathe during the warm months and ice skate during the cold ones.five points, nyc, new york city, collect pond, greg mchale, jesse shaver, jesse and gregAs the city expanded north, businesses like breweries, slaughterhouses and tanneries began to populate the shores of this important little body of water. As they grew, so did the waste they produced and tossed into the pond. By the early 1800′s the levels of human, animal and commercial waste had reached hazardous levels. A solution was needed. There was a proposal to clean it up and turn it into the focal point of a public park for the city’s residents to once again enjoy, but real estate interests won. Imagine that! The pond was filled in with earth from the surrounding hills and, beginning in 1811, upper-middle class houses were built along the newly formed streets. A big problem revealed itself pretty quickly, though. The engineers who managed the process of filling Collect Pond were lousy at their jobs. Houses began to sink and methane gases from decomposing organics and water under this newly formed nabe began to rise. Entire streets would fill with a foot or more of mud while swarms of mosquitos and giant packs of rats found themselves a fantastic place to terrorize the residents.five points, nyc, new york city, collect pond, greg mchale, jesse shaver, jesse and gregBy the 1820′s, the moderately wealthy were getting the hell out of Dodge and the just-off-the-boat and dirt-poor immigrants were moving in to this creature-infested bog. It was a perfect combination of damp and steamy filth that acted as the perfect petri dish for some of the most violent and organized crime the city had ever seen. More on that next week on Five Points. Then, Still.

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.

Rails. City Hall Station.

If you take the Downtown 6 train to the last stop at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and then stay on the train while it winds around underground to become the Uptown 6, you’ll get a nice little surprise out the window to your right.

Mayor Robert Van Wyke presided over the ground breaking of the City Hall Station for the IRT Lexington Avenue line in March of 1900. Originally designed to look like the other stations in the line with simple white utilitarian tile with inlaid mosaic labeling each stop, this curvy station got an upgrade when the new mayor, George McClellon, declared that his stop under City Hall had to be “more beautiful than the rest.” He got what he wanted and on October 27th, 1904 he turned the silver key official opening this amazing underground hub for business. It was never the busiest station, but certainly the most beautiful with its Romanesque Revival architecture, intricate tile work, arched blue leaded glass skylights and massive brass chandeliers.

Even the oak ticket booth with cast iron bars on its windows was more ornate than ones at the rest of the stops. Unfortunately, with the expanding size or the trains, the tight curve in the stations design created a tremendously unsafe gap for passengers to navigate and the station closed on December 31, 1945. Sealed with concrete slabs, it became a virtual tomb until 1995 when it was intended to be reopened as a part of the New York Transit Museum. Plans were halted for that project when the Giuliani administration deemed it’s location a “highly secure” area due to terrorist threats. So today, this incredible piece of transit history remains unused except for the occasional tour given to members of the Transit Museum.

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.