Friday, November 5, 2010

A haunted house on 13th Street?

The Post had a "Haunted New York" feature on Halloween on well, haunted haunts around town... Per the article: "'We live in the 'most haunted city in America,' according to CUNY history professor and 'Ghosts of Manhattan' author Phil Schoenberg." Among the listed haunted locales: McSorley's and St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. All fine urban legends.

Meanwhile, speaking of haunted... a few months back a reader asked me what the deal was with 222 E. 13th Street... right across the street from the Mystery Lot... The reader mentioned that he or she heard the long-abandoned house was haunted. And if I knew anything about its history.

I don't know much about this address... the DOB lists "Esglad Housing Development Corp." as the owners. A complaint to the DOB dated May 1, 1989 notes that the "recent firebombing of building damaged front hallways and possibly first floor beams."

Anyway, I'm throwing this one open ... Anyone know more about this address? Seems as if it has sat empty for about 20 years...


Greg Masters said...

I believe the front steps collapsed killing a young girl. The property likely has been tied up in legal woes since.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I remember the place as a single hotel with all the tenants there as black tough guys ready to rip off anyone that passed. For quite a few years I avoided that block, 2nd and 3rd Avenues though I did live on 1st and 2nd, just a block away.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

The collapse was next door, in the tall building.

EV Grieve said...

The collapse did occur at 226 E. 13th Street... A horrific story. Per the Times:

Published: July 02, 1988
Two young girls were crushed to death and a third was severely injured yesterday when the front stoop and the archway of an apartment building in the East Village collapsed, the police said.

Police officials said the girls were sitting on the stoop at 226 East 13th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, when the metal supports under it gave way, triggering the collapse of the steps and toppling marble pillars that framed the building's entrance.

One of the girls, 12 years old, was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center almost immediately after the accident at 3:10 P.M. Rescue workers needed several hours to free the other two victims from the rubble.

Sari Botton said...

I lived on the block between 1st and 2nd from 1993 to 2005, and my understanding was that in the late 80s/early 90s it was a crack house or shooting gallery. That had been a rough block. The "hotel" on the south east corner of 13th and 3rd had been a brothel. Portions of Taxi Driver were shot on that block.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

An added item for those who don't know, the violent shooting spree in 'Taxi Driver' took place in the tall building, right next door to the 'haunted' one.

Anonymous said...

Non-ghost related, I heard that the building was owned by the city and had been designated to go to a non-profit theater group. The theater group lost its funding, the deal fell through, and it has sat empty ever since.

Anonymous said...

According to ACRIS, NYC foreclosed a tax lien on this property in 1993 and the city has owned the property since then. I believe there are actually "no trespassing" signs on the fencing indicating the city owns the property.

A brilliant use of public funds, keeping a paroperty boarded up for 17 years.

Anonymous said...

Here is a more fulsome report:

Nightmare on 13th Street

For five years, the single-room-occupancy building at 222 East 13th Street, the smaller of two SROs on the block, was a notorious crackhouse. Stabbings, car thefts, and burglaries occurred on a weekly basis, fires broke out daily, and neighbors who complained to the police were assaulted by the dealers. Harawitz owns a small apartment building next door to 222; because of the odors of trash and human waste from the SRO, it would take her three to four months to fill vacancies in her building. The apartment directly adjacent to 222 remained vacant for two-and-a-half years.

In 1991 the city took the building over as part of its 7A Anti-Abandonment program. But things did not improve. When Harawitz called the program to complain about smoke billowing from the SRO into her apartment, no one would take responsibility for the building. It had 150 code violations when the city assumed control; after the city spent $80,000 to repair the building, there were 250 violations. Meanwhile, the tenants—almost all prostitutes, drug dealers, and addicts—paid no rent.

For years the city had ignored the neighbors’ pleas for help. Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger told the community that the city needed every SRO it could get. Residents formed a block association, which met with representatives of ten city agencies, including the city’s homeless program, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Human Resources Administration, drug programs, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office; all claimed they could offer no relief.

more here

EV Grieve said...

@ anon 10:33

Thanks for this background.

Lisa said...

I can also tell you that in the 1990s CB3 was told by the city that the building could ONLY be used by a nonprofit group, they would not even consider rehabbing it in any way, shape or form. So we voted more than once to try and give the building to a nonprofit - the only one I remember specifically was a decision in favor of a group who worked with developmentally disabled children. But every time we voted to give it to one group, something happened - either other groups protested, or funding fell through, whatever. So finally everyone just seemed to throw in the towel and just boarded it up until the Apocalypse. But it was a nasty crackhouse, tho...

blue glass said...

i lived on that block when 222 was a rooming house run by a couple with a big dog. when the husband died the wife could not control the place (she was very nice, scared and timid) and it became out of control and dangerous. it was at that time (early 60s) that the block was overrun with drugs, junkies, prostitutes and above the law methadone clients with dr triebal's million$ operation of a MMTP clinic, next door to the now successful momo on 2nd ave, (no business could sustain that corner, several chinese restaurants and lulu's move were failures).
the regina "hotel" on 3rd ave & 13th street ran a "by the hour" service for local prostitutes and the owner helped down and out alcoholics.
when taxi was filmed all the girls and their pimps came out to watch and criticize the "costumes" from the film.
the village voice did an article about 13th street(2-3) called "the block they couldn't clean up".
as a result of the article, and two shootings the police finally paid some attention to the block and the drug trade was pushed more undercover and the methadone cente was closed with help from the community.
the rooming house was taken over by the city and all sorts of programs were proposed. during this time the building was open to squatters, drug dealers, homeless, everyone. there was a fire and the city sealed the building and put a fence in front of it. i think the building was too small to be fiscally possible for almost any program. so, no program started and 222 has stood vacant for over 20 years.
there were two collapses - the collapse of the steps where two girls were killed, and to the rear wall of, i think, 226 which is now renovated and fully functional.
the "mystery lot" became a playground sponsored by the block association under city sponsorship and was utilized for many years until most of the children grew up, and it became a vacant lot used mostly by older new tenants to practice basketball and walk their dogs. there was a chico mural on the western side depicting neighbors that used the block.
the block has changed radically, no more bodegas and chinese laundries (where you didn't need your ticket), drug dens and shoe stores. now there are more up-scale stores but i don't think that block will ever be a tree lined east village block.
the underworld history goes back to the early 1900's where guide books talk about the prostitutes on the corner of 13th & 3rd, and then the drug trade.

blue glass said...

wow - i replied to this and it was too long, so i will attempt to do it in two posts.

i lived on that block from late 1959 when i moved and my son stayed on the block till the late 80's.

222 was a rooming house run by a timid couple with a big dog. when the husband died the wife could not control the tenants and she lost control and the building became a drug den.
the city took over the building and eventually emptied it out. many uses were proposed, and some went as far as appearing on the community board agenda (i think boards were created in the late 60's, i’m not sure.) i think the building was too small to be fiscally sound for funding.
there were two collapses, one the front stairs that killed the two girls and the other a back wall of a building that was renovated and utilized.

blue glass said...

at the same time the block was overrun with drug dealers, crime, violence, prostitution and sunday liquor sales (that the "government" cracked down on, loss of taxes you know.)
the badly run million$ MMTP program on second avenue (next to the now successful momo) was closed down by efforts of the block association, the community board and local officials. the corner that momo occupies was never successful - until now. lulu’s bar (run by an ex boxer and very local) and many chinese restaurants failed there.
the police paid some attention to the block after two shootings and an article by the village voice called "the block they couldn’t clean up".
the mystery lot was created by the then block association and local kids played there for years. it was slated for sale and member of the ba convinced the city that the children of the block were still using it. we cleaned it out and even planted some. as the kids grew up the lot was utilized by mostly new older guys to practice basket ball and to dog walkers.
cico pained a mural on the west wall of folks that used the lot.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that City Journal article is a great read. Harawitz is still there, by the way, only now she fights against her other neighbor, an overprivileged, selfish party animal who throws ridiculously large and loud parties into all hours.

chris flash said...

222 East 13th Street was used by Antonio Pagàn to cause embarrassment to then City Council member Miriam Friedlander.

Bringing in crusading journalist Jack Newfield, who wrote a damning piece in the NY (Com)Post about 222, Pagàn and his backers packed a Community Board Three meeting to further promote Pagàn's candidacy for City Council. I was surprised that Newfield, who should have known better, was used in this way.

The result of Newfield's (Com)Post article was that 222 was raided by an army of cops who evicted the tenants at gun point. Most of these tenants had nothing to do with the crack and drug trade being run by thugs in the building. They had been living in fear for their lives and they ended up getting victimized again, this time by the city, which left them homeless.

In the early 90s, I assisted some people in getting a squat set up there, as the building had been sitting empty for years. Inside were the remnants of the lives of residents who had been removed, including clothing and personal effects. Aside from cosmetic damages, the house was in pretty good shape.

Unfortunately, the squatters were detected before they could get a legal foothold and were evicted by HPD, which then erected a cyclone fence in front.

Why this building is still vacant is anyone's guess. I suppose all it will take is the right party paying off the right politician to get this place handed over to them.

EV Grieve said...

Thanks for all the background (everyone)...

LiberationNYC said...

I would love to see whats inside that building.

Lisa said...

Dead pigeons, rat shit, really dirty crappy furniture, refrigerators with decades-old food, piles of ratty old clothes. At least, that's what was in the abandoned building I moved into and what I saw in plenty of others, so I assume that's what's in here. Don't think it was ever cleared out by the city.

Sheryl said...

Yes, this building and others on the block are haunted. Haunted by people who occupied these buildings from the horse and buggy days as well as later generations.

Almost from its construction in the 1860s, 220 East 13th Street was home of Jane Middleton, who ran a Home for Deaf and Dumb Indigents, without compensation. From the day she arrived in NYC she devoted herself to the residents of the neighborhood. Several of her letter are in the Archives of Cornell University and detail her work in the neighborhood.

These snippets from Jane Middleton's letters dated March, 1864 and shows the kind of ghosts that exits on this block..

"I could not attend to this business until Saturday, when I had to get a very sick motherless young woman (whose father & two brothers were ill in their beds with intermittent fever to St. Luke's Hospital. It was a tedious undertaking & somewhat difficult to get her carried down their 5 story dark crooked stairs as well as keeping her alive in the carriage until I got her there to have proper care - it was best I should see to it - to leave her as she was, she would lose her life"

" but what can I do when they come to me for cough medicine, some ointment, eye water & ... saying so and so is very ill, such a body scalded & if you will but come Miss Middleton .to cheer them, and see what else can be done"

218 was the home a a celebrated Civil War Doctor. I am sure his ghost has a lot to say.

222 was the home of a Hungarian dentist, musicians and actresses.

Emma Goldman lived on this block.

Yes, there are many ghosts on this block.. Something to celebrate.

Ken Mac said...

This has been one of the most informative and fascinating posts to ever run on EV Grieve!

A Grand Day Out said...

Living at 220 has turned out to be a loud neighbors from the right (just from the left at times)..the ghosts? I think they are happiest when left alone, but am sure are amused by what little danger lurks around OUR corners today.

Sheryl said...

Received this email, from Notify NYC, regarding a water main break. They had to did up the street. Do you think the ghosts were reading your blog?

Notification issued on 11/09/2010 at 8:20 AM. Due to emergency street repairs, East 13th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is closed to vehicular traffic. Expect traffic delays in the area.

marjorie said...

What a fascinating discussion. Thank you, all!

Richard D James said...

Great post and comments!

Thank you EV Grieve and everyone who shared their stories and knowledge!

EY said...

I moved to 212 East 13th in 1969 and am still around! I can vouch for every bad thing written on this thread about 222 -- drugs, prostitution, violence, fires, etc. But that would be way later than 1969. I still remember the sight back then of a timid old woman appearing at the basement door opening to the street and peering out for long periods at passersby. I've always wondered if she had an ownership interest, or was she just one of the building's last tenants. I don't remember when she was no longer to be seen. By then the building had transferred to, or would soon, to the City's stewardship. Littered along the sidewalk with rat traps and, often, dead pigeons, the property today is in disgraceful condition. A few doors to the east a pair of old buildings have been turned into modern townhouses. I have no idea how that was accomplished because the people now in residence apparently do not mix much. But to have 222 refurbished the same way would be a great thing. The location is desirable and I have to believe a developer would jump at the chance to rebuild. I'd like to know why nothing like that is happening. Is the City standing in the way?

Sheryl said...

When I moved in next door in 1989, the owner of 222 has recently died and the building was sold. She might have been the owner who rented out rooms.

Sheryl said...

The city wants the building to go to a social service residence of some sort. But the building is not big enough to meet the requirements and thus catch 22.

Maude Findlay said...

It will be the Bea Arthur residence for homeless GLBT youth
Thanks to her gift of $300k and 3 mil from city grant

JUSTICE said...

I lived in the area all my life. Three blocks down on 13th at ave .A from my time it was a motel but closed around 25 plus years ago. And as far as the steps collapsing it wasn't this building it was a few buildings down. Two girls died one survived. One of the girls I went to school with (P.S.19). Rumors are said that the building is haunted but the reality is it isn't it was created by parents of the neighborhood to keep their kids out from vandalizing and getting hurt! As an adult now I like to continue the story about that it is haunted. It makes the building much more interesting. It is a shame that nothing came about this building and it's just rotting away. But what is haunted is the Peter stvy church btw 11-12th st & 2nd ave.

Anonymous said...

I lived at 325 East 13th St, b/n 1st & 2nd, 1999-2000. That was definitely haunted by junkies and their 2 dogs who died of starvation after they OD'd. We had 2 apartment fires on exactly the same date 1 year apart. There was still a drug trafficking system and dealers in the building. Everytime they fixed the front door, someone would break the locks. Once my friend got a new camera. He went up to the roof to test it, and a guy jumped over from the neighboring building and took his tape, said he had caught something on camera. and i used to hear/see the late night happenings on the sidewalk. but I was wondering if now all that has stopped. though heroin has apparently made a come-back in new york.