When ‘Black Hand’ Gangsters Kidnapped a Doctor’s Son at 2 Prince Street

Posted on: January 22nd, 2014 at 11:28 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

2 Prince St., Photo: Amy Welch

The fascinating thing about living on the Lower East Side is that nearly every building you pass carries a rich history. Whenever I walk around the neighborhood, my mind always flows to “who were the first people to live here” or, “I wonder if anything newsworthy every happened in this building.” My mind wanders.

The very cool corner tenement at 2 Prince Street (home to Miss Hoe on the ground floor) has some interesting mob-related history to divulge, all dating back to the goings-on in the late 1890s/early 1900s.

Dr. Scimeca was an Italian doctor who graduated in 1898 from the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York located at 239 East 14th Street. At that time, doctors were prime targets for the Italian crime syndicate – the Black Hand – presumably because they thought these professionals were filthy rich. Dr. Scimeca received several threats for months on end until something actually happened. He was living at 2 Prince Street, which still stands today at the corner of the Bowery.

This image has been archived or removed.

NYT Headline: June 22, 1910

In June 1910, probably like any other summer day, Dr. Scimeca’s son Michael was kidnapped (by offer of candy) in this building while playing in the hallway with two other children, Vido Pagano and Maria Azaro. In The New York Times, Dr. Scimeca commented, “I have been receiving letters from The Black Hand practically every day since my boy was carried away on June 21…On Friday I received a final letter. I have not got $5,000 in the world. Otherwise, I would gladly pay the money. I have already pawned all my wife’s trinkets and everything of value that I have. But all I can raise is $700.”

Three months after this kidnapping, his son was returned to Dr. Scimeca’s brother-in-law in Brooklyn. The details of his return were never fully disclosed, and all parties involved claimed that no ransom was ever paid.

This image has been archived or removed.

NYT Headline: Sept. 1, 1910

So many events of this nature occurred around the Lower East Side during this particular time period (i.e. Slum). Families probably experienced it more often than we would like to think. So when I walk by 2 Prince, I often stand staring up the building, in awe of this nearly forgotten history.

Written by Amy Welch

Recent Stories

Chinatown Garment Industry Hanging by a Thread

Once a hub of manufacturing for the city’s garment industry, there are only a few remaining factories in Chinatown from a peak in the hundreds. The localized industry, which once employed thousands of immigrant women and men, sparked an area restaurant boom in the 1970s. Yet, began to decline in the late 1980s when manufacturers started […]

Residents Unite Against Developer Plans to Swap Park for Parking on LES Waterfront

Residents on the Lower East Side waterfront may soon lose more publicly accessible outdoor space. The developer of a new super-tall plans to reduce a children’s playground to a parking lot. As excavation work commences on Chetrit Group’s 70-story, twin-towered development at 265 South Street, tenants in the adjacent building – Lands End II – […]

Chinatown Homeless Murder Suspect Still Awaiting Trial

More than two years since the horrific murder of four homeless men in Chinatown, the suspect has yet to be held accountable for the crimes. In the early morning hours of October 5, 2019 Randy Santos stalked, then allegedly bludgeoned to death Cheun Kwok, Anthony Manson, Florencio Moran and Nazario Vasqez-Villegas while asleep on the streets. In […]

Excavation Begins for 70-Story South Street Towers

Cranes, and plywood, and pile-drivers, oh my! Such is the story down on the Lower East Side waterfront. Department of Buildings on April 12 issued official approval to the Chetrit Group to begin foundation activities for its dual 70-story tower at 265 South. A month later, the big trucks are mobilized. While excavation is now […]

For 7th Year Running, Greek Jewish Festival Returns to Broome Street this Weekend

After a more subdued outing last year, the Greek Jewish Festival this spring is on the rebound, pulling out the stops. It returns on Sunday for another go-round. Founded by Kehila Kedosha Janina on Broome Street seven years ago, the event celebrates the culture and traditions of the Greek Jewish community. Years past saw crowds […]