Thursday, July 23, 2009

An appreciation: That empty lot on 13th Street

Between Third Avenue and Second Avenue. The empty lot has been discussed for years. It has sat vacant since 1986. The Jefferson Theater was here. According to Cinema Treasures:

[T]his theater was located at 214 E. 14th Street near Third Avenue. The entrance was a narrow space between two tenement houses with the bulk of the theater (auditorium) located in 13th Street. The Jefferson operated at least into the 1970s and was demolished in 2000. Today, the site is filled with bricks and debris from the demolition and the old Jefferson as passed on.

Here's what it looked like near the end, via Forgotten NY:

Despite threats/promises of development through the years, the lot -- 23,000 square feet -- remains empty. But for how long? So, until NYU or something comes along...

Earlier this week:

The previous week:


Alex in NYC said...

In 2004, police recovered a dead woman's body that had been stuffed into a trunk in that lot.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

Used to be a abandoned neglected Yiddish temple near the site. Owner was in California when the city tore the structure down, he sued and won. This was before the movie 'Taxi Driver' was filmed on the street.

EV Grieve said...

In 2007, a man confessed to the murder. From The Villager:

Murder confession
Three years after the body of a homeless woman was found in a steamer trunk in a vacant lot on E. 13th St. at Third Ave., Michael Mohr, 54, walked into the Ninth Precinct police station on E. Fifth St. and confessed to the crime, according to the office of Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney.
Mohr, who lives at 245 E. 13th St. next to the lot where the body of Myrna Gonzalez was found, had a religious conversion and told police on June 6, 2007, that he had strangled the victim in a fit of rage. The body of Gonzalez, who was 45 when she was killed, was found in the trunk on June 6, 2004.
The defendant had e-mailed family and friends that Jesus “wanted him to do the right thing,” a D.A. spokesperson said. Mohr is being held pending a June 25 appearance on the second-degree murder charge.

Bowery Boogie said...

okay, that's just creepy.

Ken Mac said...

I used to pass by when the theater was still there and just stare, wondering about the secrets and history it held. Then one day it was gone and I never took a shot.

RubberBunsandLiquor said...

I actually refer to that lot as "the best smelling empty lot in New York". It really plays with your head--creepy as it looks, the Dunkin' Donuts next to it makes it smell delicious.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I remember that just happened to coincide with me finding a big steamer trunk behind my building in the trash right after I'd watched Manhunter and then saw Tom Noonan on the street. Freaky.

Anyway, I really wish I'd known that theater...too bad it wasn't able to be restored.

hntrnyc said...

hey, nice work Grieve, I wonder about this space every time I walk by it. It is a wonder that NYU doesn't already have a dorm sitting on it.

re: the murder. Mohr must have been questioned by the police as he lived next door and possible knew the victim? amazing that it took his own confession to solve it.

Anonymous said...

And directly across the street about 12 years a stairwell on one of the tenements collapsed with kids sitting
on that "stoop"killing one or 2 of em.A mural was painted in the lot that you show.
In any event this was once the worst
block west of second avenue.

Anonymous said...

The interior of the theatre was ripped out long ago.The Milstein's own the property and they tend to hold on to their holdings for a long time until they decide what they want to do. They do manage to do a nice job of keeping the lot clean and tidy. For some perspective of 13th Street, in the good-bad old days, you can watch Taxi Driver.

chris flash said...

Yes, the Millstein real estate family does own the lot. They demolished the theater, but then had a falling out, which halted whatever plan they had there. The Jefferson Theater, part of the Orpheum and RKO vaudeville circuit, hosting such famous acts as Burns + Allen, Bob Hope and even Lenny Bruce was destroyed for nothing!

Just before they killed it, I saw a bunch of workers inside, removing ironwork, railings and other artifacts. I knew what that meant. After pestering the head guy long enough, he let me go inside to take a look. The place was in horrible condition, but definitely could have been rehabbed. The lay-out was tight but perfect for sight lines and accoustics -- I could feel the history still living inside there.

Let's not forget the gas light café that was next door to the Jefferson that was shuttered and stripped years earlier. This place was as old as the theater, with a beautiful original decor, still using gas lighting. It may have been part of the theater building.

A hex on real estate parasites like the Millsteins, who destroy precious New York architecture and then sit on the land, which perversely increases in value as they do nothing with it!