Haunted History: There’s Just Something Strange About Clinton Street

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 at 5:19 am by
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2 signs?

Man, everything about Clinton Street is curious. Haunted, even.

Formerly known as Warren Street, Clinton Street was renamed in 1792 for George Clinton, a general in the Revolutionary War who was the first governor of New York State from 1777 to 1795, and again from 1801 to 1804. Clinton was also the Vice President of the United States from 1804 until his death in 1812.

From NYC-GRID: “Clinton Street begins its life down on South Street after which it cuts through the LES. However as it crosses East Broadway it makes the slightest turn east to make up for the change in orientation of the surrounding super blocks…As Clinton settles into a route which will eventually find itself turning into Avenue B before looping around at 14th Street to morph into Avenue A.”  

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Most strange about this history, however, is that we are having quite a time locating photos of Clinton Street before the 1950s.

This journey began while trying to locate a well-known bakery’s first establishment at 145 Clinton. It was named Kossar’s Bialys. Nary a photo. We inquired with Kossar’s themselves (now undergoing renovation on Grand Street) – a vintage photo, please?

The reply received was: “How did you know about that location?”

Um, is it a secret?

All we found about the location with respect to Kossar’s is that the popular bialy baker in New York City was allegedly bombed because due to union disputes … yes, even back then, sans Scabby, the rat. Story reported, yes. But where are the photos?

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Further research of Clinton Street revealed places and events worthy of bad blood and whole lotta haunting. Here are some to ponder…

Tompkins Square Park Riots:  There was one in 1857 (bread riots), 1863 (draft riots), 1874 (the declining economy), and 1988 (The “Police Riots” against the homeless, drug-dealers and users), the latter being the subject of Clayton Patterson’s film Captured.

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Tompkins Square Riot 1874

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Draft Riots

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[Photo: Clayton Patterson]Aside from the Five Points, no other location can boast four riots or a Riot Reunion for that matter.

Next up, Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum “Queen of Thieves” owned a haberdashery at 79 Clinton. (The cafe there is named after her.) She is hailed (ha!) as the most successful fence in New York history. From Sarah Breger’s Queen of Thieves: “a huge woman weighing more than two hundred and fifty pounds” with ‘extraordinarily fat cheeks,’  Mandelbaum was the head of one of the first organized crime rings and a driving force behind New York City’s underworld for more than twenty-five years.” Mandelbaum handled nearly $10 million in stolen property antebellum through the 1890s using her needles, ribbons, buttons and thread store as a front. Her apartment above was reportedly furnished completely with stolen goods for uptown mansions. That would make for a lot of unhappy people, wouldn’t you say?

“I am Ma because I give them what a mother cannot sometimes give—money and horses and diamonds.”

— Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum

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Library of Congress

Near the corner of Clinton and Rivington, on January 27, 2005, actress/playwright Nicole duFresne was killed during a mugging attempt by 19-year-old Rudy Fleming. The police said she asked the men something to the effect of, “What are you going to do, shoot us next?” Don’t ask that question? Don’t ever ask that question! 

Six years later, a man named Raul Barrera butchered his girlfriend at 63 Clinton Street. Sarah Coit was allegedly breaking up with him when he brandished a butcher knife, mutilated Coit’s face, then stabbed the 23 year old in the back.

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Shrine for deFresne

As for historic Clinton, there are but two iconic pictures of Clinton Street from the New York Public Library Archives:

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Here’s the thing – you want a pre-1950 picture of the Bowery, any year, any corner – you can find it. Delancey, Orchard, Broome, Pitt, Grand, not problem, but for some inexplicable reason, not Clinton. There are some maps, some corner shots, some municipal photos taken in the 90s. That’s it. We’ve even scrolled through miles of microfilm and microfiche in the archives of the New York Public Library, and still nothing.

(If any you have some pics out there of Clinton pre-1960s, we would LOVE to hear from you.)

Could it be that Clinton Street is haunted by the future of Essex Crossing, but most importantly by its past atop unacknowledged burial grounds? Yes, that is correct. Burial grounds that we wrote all about  in a compelling piece that you can read for the first time or again. There is enough proof in there to make you a believer. Even some of the old-timer residents we spoke with acknowledged that something seemed to haunt Clinton.

Before we go, though, let us not forget the pompous image of broker-to-the-stars Fredrik Eklund rodeo-ing atop a bulldozer without hardhat, permit, or respect at 50-62 Clinton. That new seven-story building will probably be haunted.

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As the top broker in New York City, you have to do it all. Even demolition. 50 Clinton demo starts today and I’m happy to help, dressed from head-to-toe in Armani. (You need your volume on for this one).

Top broker? No. Armani is weeping and so are the buildings you helped destroy.

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When 1492 Sailed Clinton for the last time, October 2012

Clinton Street! We beseech you! What are you hiding?

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