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Social Clubs, Casinos, and Crime Scenes: The East Village’s Mob Roots

265 East 10th StreetVanessa Yurkevich The former of home of “Lucky” Luciano at 265 East 10th Street.

Before there were squats, there were social clubs. And before pricey restaurants began taking over East Village storefronts, many were gathering places for the mob.

Every Friday and Saturday night Gideon Levy, the founder of NYC Gangster Tours, gives a tour of these onetime crime scenes, clandestine casinos and fronts for drug smuggling operations.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Levy’s obsession with mob history started in 2003 when the film “Gangs of New York” inspired him to organize his tours, one of which winds through the East Village.

“Walking through neighborhoods that are familiar, that you might walk by every single day, you might not know about a thread that leads back to smuggling or a murder,” said Mr. Levy during a recent tour. Read more…

The Old Songs of the Bowery, Live

The Bowery near Broome Street in 1895NYPL The Bowery in 1895.

Lately, the Bowery has started to look more like Dubai and a whole lot less like a poor man’s Broadway. But for at least three hours on Sunday, old-time songs will echo on the street once again, as a connoisseur of vaudeville songs and a historian lead a walking tour of music from the Bowery’s heyday. Bree Benton, accompanied by a viola and accordion, will sing songs like “My Brudda Sylvest,” and “Yiddle On Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime” (which was written by one of the former Lower East Side’s most famous sons, Irving Berlin.)

“The songs are so full of life, they really speak to the people — the common people,” said Ms. Benton, who will play the character of Poor Baby Bree, a down-and-out kid from the Lower East Side. “People who couldn’t afford to be entertained on Broadway; they went to the Bowery.” Read more…