Flatiron’s red-light district past explored in historic walking tour

This building on Sixth Avenue and 24th Street was once home to Koster & Bial, a music hall where scantily clad dancers would spend time with guests in private rooms. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While these days, the neighborhoods of Flatiron and NoMad are known for their newly built, trendy hotels and an increase in families moving into the neighborhood, what few who even live there know is that at one time it was home to numerous houses of ill repute, gambling dens and saloons.

This was during an era that spanned from about 1870 to 1910, with the area then commonly known as the Tenderloin. It was also called Satan’s Circus, or at least it was by the Tenderloin’s most vocal critic, Reverend Charles Parkhurst of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, while slamming it in a Sunday sermon.

Over a century later, that swath of the city can still be explored — or at least the area that once housed those infernal brothels as well as hotels and dance halls where much of the action took place — through a weekly walking tour.

The tour, coordinated through the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue, is led by Robert Brenner, a veteran New York tour giver. He is also an almost 30-year resident of Chelsea, in a section of the neighborhood that was once within the confines of the Tenderloin, the boundaries of which have shifted over the decades.

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Five former ACS teens accused of robbing man on First Avenue

Administration for Children’s Services facility in Kips Bay (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested five teenagers who used to live at the Administration for Children’s Services building for an alleged robbery that took place last Wednesday at the corner of East 30th Street and First Avenue, a block away from the facility.

Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Nazairo, 18-year-old Eahquan Cleaves and 18-year-old Amias Bettis, as well as a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy, approached a man in his 40s in the early hours on August 29 at 12:05 a.m. Police said that Nazairo punched him in the back of the head and the jaw. The teens then allegedly grabbed the victim’s headphones and demanded his wallet.

Cleaves was arrested at the corner of First Avenue and East 30th Street, and Nazairo, Bettis and the two younger teenagers were caught at Second Avenue and East 27th Street after police searched the area.

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Man drawing swastikas and penises in different Manhattan buildings

Jan4 penis guy

The suspect is being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force.

The suspect is being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force.

Police are looking for a man who’s been scrawling swastikas and penises on doors in apartment buildings in NoMad, Chelsea and Lower Manhattan.

Police said the man began his crude graffiti spree on Sunday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m. when he strolled into a residential building on Madison Avenue and East 29th Street, went to the 48th floor and drew a swastika on two of the doors and a penis on another door. He added the tag “Max G was here” on another door.

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Police looking for men behind two attempted bank robberies

May11 Chase robber number two

Kips Bay Chase Bank attempted robbery suspect

Police are looking for two men who attempted to rob local Chase Banks in separate incidents.

On Tuesday at around 5:30 p.m., a man strolled into a bank at 501 Second Avenue and 28th Street, approached a teller and passed a note demanding money. The teller didn’t comply, though, and the suspect fled the scene. He was last seen walking southbound on Second Avenue.

The would-be robber of the Kips Bay bank is described as being white, 35-40 years old, approximately 5’5″ tall, with a slim build. Police also said he had a light complexion with blisters around his mouth and a tattoo on his neck. At the time of the incident he was wearing blue jeans, a beige baseball cap, a gray sweatshirt and a black hooded jacket.

Police are also looking for a man who tried to rob a Chase Bank in NoMad on Friday, but left emptyhanded.

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Neighbors concerned about hotels used as shelters

Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and non-profit organizations focusing on homelessness participated in the panel, which was facilitated by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (far right). Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and non-profit organizations focusing on homelessness participated in the panel, which was facilitated by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (far right). (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Recently, the city has begun using hotels in Flatiron and NoMad as temporary homeless shelters, and the practice has area residents outraged.

New shelter neighbors gathered at the American Sign Language School last Tuesday evening to voice their concerns about the shelters as well as the homeless population in general.

A number of residents at the meeting insisted that they were empathetic to the homeless and acknowledged that it is a small percentage of the population that is causing problems, but many who spoke said that safety was a serious concern.

“The risk doesn’t come from the 70 percent of the homeless population who are working poor, who are just trying to get by,” Third Avenue resident Thandi Gordon-Stein said. “We’re worried about the other 30 percent who are convicted criminals and sex offenders. When you add so many facilities in one neighborhood, it becomes a danger. They say we should call 311 or the police but that’s not working.”

Many at the meeting said they were worried that the neighborhood could become oversaturated with homeless facilities. Matt Borden, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, argued that the decision to use hotels in Flatiron and NoMad was based on the so-called “Fair Share Criteria,” which is supposed to prevent neighborhoods from getting saturated with shelters and making sure other areas are home to some. According to the data from DHS, which examines the homeless population within community district lines, Community Board 5 is under the city average of 1,016.

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