An 1885 newspaper sketch depicts “respectable” New Yorkers being escorted through the Five Points slum, safeguarded by a police officer.
The City has decided to dignify a district that was once a source of shame and that it later sought to erase, both from memory and the Lower Manhattan streetscape. In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as ‘Five Points’ has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
A decade later, Charles Dickens, visiting New York, wrote of the same Lower Manhattan neighborhood that had inspired the petition, “what place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points…. Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken forays.” Of the inhabitants, he observed, “pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright instead of going on all fours, and why they talk instead of grunting?”
An 1851 map illustrating the now-vanished Five Points neighborhood of Lower Manhattan.
The locus of this iniquity was a junction formed by three Downtown streets, the names of which have all been changed: Orange Street (now called Baxter), Cross Street (today known as Mosco Street), and Anthony Street (familiar to contemporary residents as Worth Street). The convergence of a third lane gave the intersection a quintet of corners, rather than the usual four. Hence the name: “Five Points.”
It was here that generations of impoverished immigrants gathered: waves of Irish, Italian, and Chinese newcomers mingled with newly emancipated slaves in the decades after the Civil War. They were drawn to housing made affordable by its squalor. In the early years of the 19th century, the City had filled in the nearby Collect Pond, hoping to eradicate the health hazard created by decades of industrial pollution. Because hydrology was poorly understood at the time, they succeeded only in creating a swamp, which drew pestilential clouds of disease-carrying insects. The soggy ground was also nearly as detrimental to the buildings erected upon it, which quickly began to sink into the mud. As middle-class residents fled northward, they were replaced by destitute migrants. Some of these strangers in a stranger land banded together for mutual support, forming ethnic gangs that competed violently for local dominance. Although precise statistics are lost in the fog of history, scholars believe that by the middle of the century, Five Points had the highest murder rate of any urban ghetto in the world.
The Five Points gang, a criminal organization that drew its members from the ethnic immigrant populations that inhabited the neighborhood.
In what may have been America’s first experiment with slum clearance, the City decided to erase the entire neighborhood from its map in the late 1800s. Blocks of tenements were emptied, condemned, and demolished. On this land, the growing municipal government erected civic temples in which to house its courts, prisons, and dozens of other agencies.
The names of most the surrounding streets were changed. Some thoroughfares, like Little Water Street, vanished completely. Some were elongated, like Worth Street, which was stretched eastward to Chatham Square, cutting off Baxter and Mulberry Streets as it went. And others were truncated, such as Mosco Street, which was shortened to its current, one-block length, so that architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux (fresh from completing his masterpiece, Central Park) could create Mulberry Bend Park—now known as Columbus Park. (It opened two years after Vaux’s death, in 1895, but was renamed for the discoverer of the New World in 1911.)
All that remains of the Five Points today: the intersection of Worth and Baxter Streets, with Columbus Park in the background.
As a result, the five-angled intersection no longer exists. Its closest remnant is the junction of Baxter and Worth Streets, where there is was marker or relic recalling the history of the Five Points.
At a November, 2019 meeting of Community Board 1, Lloyd Trufelman, representing the Municipal Art Society, said, “as many of you may know, Five Points was a historic neighborhood in Lower Manhattan that vanished over a century ago. Sadly, not a trace of it remains. Although long gone, Five Points played an important historical and cultural role in the City’s early development with regards to immigration, integration, and political and labor trends. A co-naming sign at Worth and Baxter Streets would mark its epicenter.”
This proposal was endorsed by the Historic Districts Council and Colombia University history professor Kenneth Jackson (editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of New York), along with the the Municipal Arts Society.
Later in the meeting, CB1 enacted a resolution endorsing the proposal, and acknowledging that, “posting a Five Points sign on the small triangular plot at Worth and Baxter Streets would recognize the lives of tens of thousands of 19th century Irish, Italian, Chinese and Jewish immigrants as well as the free African-Americans who lived together in this notorious slum where they faced considerable poverty and adversity while helping to make New York City the melting pot that it is today.”
With CB1’s support, the plan next came before the City Council, which has the final say over street co-naming proposals. Council member Margaret Chin endorsed the measure, and it was enacted last December. Finally, in September, the City’s Department of Transportation installed the sign on the south side of Baxter and Worth Streets.
BPCA Chair will Depart to Serve as Ambassador to Greece
The White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden plans to nominate George Tsunis, the chairman of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) since 2018, to serve as the United States Ambassador to Greece. Assuming that Mr. Tsunis, a real estate developer and philanthropist, is confirmed by the United States Senate, as seems likely, he will soon be required to vacate his current post, overseeing the 92 acres of landfill between West Street and the Hudson River, which is home to more than 10,000 residents.
Mr. Tsunis said, “I am honored and humbled by the nomination, and if confirmed I look forward to promoting American interests and values in the bilateral relationship—as well as to deepening and strengthening an already strong relationship.”
Concerns Raised about Proposal to Make Sidewalk Dining Permanent
Elected officials and local leaders are mobilizing against a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to expand and make permanent the allowance that enabled restaurants to expand into City streets and sidewalks, originally adopted as a provisional measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On October 6, as the Department of City Planning began consideration of this proposal at its headquarters, at 120 Broadway, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, Community Board 1 chair Tammy Meltzer, and City Council candidate Christopher Marte joined other leaders and activists at a rally and protest outside to voice reservations about this plan.
New Rental Building in Hudson Square Contains 30 Affordable Units
Downtown’s roster of affordable rental apartments will soon expand by 30 new homes, as part of a residential development at 111 Varick Street, two blocks north of Canal Street. The building will contain a total of 2100 rental units (with the remaining 70 apartments at market-rate rentals). In exchange for committing to affordability protections on the 30 units, the developer received tax incentives worth many millions of dollars, which helped to build the project.
People wishing to live in the affordable units at 111 Varick are urged enter the affordable housing lottery being overseen by the City’s the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
The Pace University Art Gallery (located at 41 Park Row) has debuted its new, in-person exhibition, “Substance,” which brings together four abstract artists, who express meaning via materials, rather than representational imagery.
Diego Anaya celebrates his Mexican heritage through the use of ground corn, corn ash, and sand. Liz Atz’s bright, immersive artworks critique commercialism, materialism, and consumption. Linda Ekstromuses text from religious sources as both inspiration and commentary, exploring feminist issues, particularly within the role of Jewish and Christian tradition. And Alberto Lule critiques America’s prison-industrial complex as a form of modern slavery, using fingerprint powder as his drawing material, mining insights from his personal experience with incarceration. On display now through October 30. Admission is free, but a Covid vax card and ID are required to enter the gallery as per NYS guidelines..
1. Greenstreets Program – Discussion with Matthew Donham, Director, Natural Resources Capital Design & Construction, NYS Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Environmental Conservation invited)
2. Unified Stormwater Rule – Report (NYC Department of Environmental Protection invited)
3. Protecting Birds in Community District 1 – Discussion with Kaitlyn Parkins, Associate Director of Conservation and Science, NYC Audubon
4. 5WTC Floodplain Notice – Report
5. 250 Water Street Brownfield Cleanup Program – Report
Interdisciplinary artist and advocate David Thomson delves into questions of care, listening, change, trust and resilience. How do we value ourselves and others? How do we redefine intentional care and success? These are some questions that have emerged through his work on The Sustainability Project, which focuses on ideas of financial, artistic, and personal empowerment in the arts community, and are woven into larger issues we continue to wrestle with culturally, socially and politically. $10-$15
With its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River and New York Bay, Wagner Park is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies, including drawing boards and containers of water if they are planning to paint. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. https://bpca.ny.gov/event/elements-of-nature-drawing-6/all/
Bob O’Shea was a kid from New Jersey. O’Shea’s success on Wall Street is the epitome of the American dream. He was offered partnership at Goldman Sachs at age 29, making him the second-youngest partner in the firm’s history. Then, as a second act, O’Shea co-founded Silver Point Capital, a credit and special situations hedge fund, in 2002. He subsequently grew the firm from $120 million in assets under management to $15 billion. Michael Gatto, an adjunct professor at Fordham, will interview O’Shea about his meteoric rise on Wall Street. Topics will include his career and keys to his success, his views of the current credit markets and his advice for students and young professionals on how to build successful careers in credit. Reservations required.
Expect a fascinating, novel dialogue among soulful strains of music when clarinet and mandolin virtuoso Andy Statman joins forces with Jay Gandhi, Ehren Hanson, and David Ellenbogen of Brooklyn Raga Massive. This unique and amazing collaboration, taps into the rich traditions of improvisation and spiritual yearning that animate Indian classical, Jewish, and American roots music. FreeBattery Park City Authority
Community Board 1 Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee
Experience an immersive sound installation within the Winter Garden palm trees as part of Brookfield Place‘s annual music series, New Sounds Live, curated by John Schaefer of WNYC. The installation titled, Veils and Vesper, is a composition of synthetic sounds by John Luther Adams that is formed by the interactions of a mathematical algorithm and prime numbers to create a sensuous, ever-changing soundscape. Tonight, the installation will be accompanied by live music performance. Free
The tall ship Wavertree, the lightship Ambrose, and the tug W.O. Decker are open to the public. Explore Wavertree and Ambrose while they are docked; cruise New York Harbor on W.O. Decker. Wavertree and Ambrose visits are free; Decker prices vary. Check website for times, prices and other details.
Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try is a first-of-its-kind exhibition on the 20th-century artist and Holocaust survivor Boris Lurie. Centered around his earliest work, the so-called War Series, as well as never-before-exhibited objects and ephemera from Lurie’s personal archive, the exhibition presents a portrait of an artist reckoning with devastating trauma, haunting memories, and an elusive, lifelong quest for freedom.
In drawing together artistic practice and historical chronicle, Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try is fertile new territory for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, offering a survivor’s searing visual testimony within a significant art historical context. The Museum is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 11 AM – 7 PM ET through October 17. The Museum is closed on Jewish holidays and on Thanksgiving. As of October 18, the Museum will be open Sunday and Wednesday: 10 AM to 5 PM; Thursday, 10 AM to 8 PM; and Friday, 10 AM to 3 PM.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
Reliable, trustworthy and caring Nanny looking for full time position preferably with newborns, infants and toddlers. I have experience in the Battery Park City area for 8 years. I will provide a loving, safe and nurturing environment for your child. Refs available upon request. Beverly 347 882 6612
HOUSEKEEPING/ NANNY/ BABYSITTER
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
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SEEKING LIVE-IN ELDER CARE
12 years experience, refs avail. I am a loving caring hardworking certified home health aide
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
World Trade Center Health Program Faces Funding Shortfall
The World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment to people affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is facing an impending budget shortfall that, if left unaddressed, could cause it to scale back services starting in 2025. Activists, local leaders, and elected officials are working to head off this possibility with new legislation.
More than 58,000 people are currently grappling with health problems arising from exposure to environmental toxins on September 11, 2001, and its aftermath. More have died from these illnesses in the years since 2001 than perished on the day of the attacks. There are now 21,000 people suffering from cancers related to September 11.
Samascott Orchard Orchard fruit, strawberries from Columbia County, New York
Francesa’s Bakery Breads and baked goods from Middlesex County, New Jersey
Meredith’s Bakery Baked goods from Ulster County, New York
Riverine Ranch Water Buffalo meat and cheeses from Warren County, New Jersey
1857 Spirits Handcrafted potato vodka from Schoharie County, New York
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted
Annual Ranking of Most Powerful Manhattan Leaders Includes 11 Downtown Doyens
The highly regarded local political journalism outlet City & State has released its annual Manhattan Power 100 list, which ranks the borough’s leaders by their influence. This year’s edition contains 11 elected officials and not-for-profit executives whose work serves the Downtown community, and beyond.
Congressman Jerry Nadler took the number one spot for his continuing role, “in drawing attention to the ongoing health impacts of the 9/11 terror attacks in Lower Manhattan,” City & State says. Mr. Nadler has for years spearheaded efforts to secure healthcare services and financial compensation for residents and first responders made ill by exposure to environmental toxins in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
Nadler Presses City Hall to Release Documents from 2001 about Awareness of Ground Zero Health Risks
United States Congressman Jerry Nadler is calling upon the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to make public previously unreleased City documents, which may shed light on what Rudolph Giuliani, who was Mayor at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, knew about environmental health risks in weeks and months following of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
In a September 20 letter to City Hall, Mr. Nadler and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney write that, “we have yet to see a full accounting of what then-Mayor Giuliani and his administration knew at the time.” They argue that such an accounting would, “help provide injured and ill 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families a better understanding of what the City knew at the time about the likely scope of the health crisis and when they knew it.” To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
Pablo Picasso photo by Arnold Newman
415 – Hundred Years’ War: Henry V of England and his lightly armoured infantry and archers defeat the heavily armoured French cavalry in the Battle of Agincourt on Saint Crispin’s Day.
1760 – George III becomes King of Great Britain.
1812 – War of 1812: The American frigate, USS United States, commanded by Stephen Decatur, captures the British frigate HMS Macedonian.
1938 – The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, denounces swing music as “a degenerated musical system … turned loose to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people”, warning that it leads down a “primrose path to hell”. His warning is widely ignored.
1944 – Heinrich Himmler orders a crackdown on the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely organized youth culture in Nazi Germany that had assisted army deserters and others to hide from the Third Reich.
1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: Adlai Stevenson shows photos at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council proving that Soviet missiles are installed in Cuba.
1881 – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter and sculptor (d. 1973)
1941 – Helen Reddy, Australian-American singer-songwriter and actress
1400 – Geoffrey Chaucer, English philosopher, poet, and author (b. 1343)
1916 – William Merritt Chase, American painter and educator (b. 1849)
1965 – Eduard Einstein, Swiss son of Albert Einstein (b. 1910)
1980 – Virgil Fox, American organist and educator (b. 1912)
1993 – Vincent Price, American actor (b. 1911)
2014 – Jack Bruce, Scottish-English singer-songwriter and bass player