Murder Alley, Chinatown

Murder Alley

(Doyers Street, aka “Murder Alley”, Chinatown, New York)

A curious bend in the street at The Lower East Side’s most infamous spot, Murder Alley, lives on in history and in the imagination. If you are visiting The City, this is a place that is not in the tourist books, but perhaps is one of the most quintessentially New York locations. It sparks the wandering travelers’ interest as it is raw, ungentrified (a rare trait in Manhattan these days) and very much a working street for the neighborhood.

Doyers Street has a storied history. It is one of the few which bends in such a tight radius within a short distance. The moniker “Murder Alley” was bestowed upon the place because, in the early Century, this location was ruled by the Chinatown Gangs and the blood flowed freely. Apparently the bend in the street invited questionable activity due to its secrecy, but these days one can walk in relative safety amongst the jewelry and pawn shops.

Doyers Map

(Doyers Street in the Heart of Chinatown, Lower East Side)

In The Contrasting City, The Gentrifying City, not too far away, Oyster Bars co-mingle with Yoga Studios and Art Galleries (an exemplar is Freeman Alley). These juxtapositions against The Older City create what is inherently the essence of New York. There are less impressive imposters which can be seen amongst the storefronts, also gracing the Lower End of Manhattan. Cigar Shops and Shoe Shops, the basis of neighborhood trade, are now replaced by Subway Shops and sterile windowed banks. A certain spirit which used to drive the character of these neighborhoods is seemingly in flux. It is within this context of continual change that one can only hope that the last bastions of The City’s grittier history, like Murder Alley, are not commodified and relegated to our Urban Past.

Links of Relatable Note can be Found Here:

You Tube link to a (rather comedic) take on the history of Murder Alley, Chinatown

Doyers Street History on Jeremiah’s New York (A very nice writeup)

A Trip Down Doyers from Scouting New York

Freeman Alley and The Urban Wanderer, From Gordon’s Urban Morphology


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