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

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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