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Thread: Hell's Kitchen

  1. #1

    Default Hell's Kitchen

    A Diner for Rent, With Many Memories to Tell

    Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
    The counter at the Market Diner in 1990, a Hell’s Kitchen place favored by hungry hoods, passing politicians and the occasional undercover reporter and police officer.


    Published: September 14, 2007

    When it opened on the corner of 43rd Street and 11th Avenue in 1962, the Market Diner was one of the biggest of its kind in New York City. It became known as a late-night hangout for Frank Sinatra and Kate Smith, the place the Westies gang dropped by during a break from dismembering victims, and even the spot where Jerry Seinfeld and his friends Kramer and Newman met a dealer for black-market shower heads.

    Kitra Cahana/The New York Times
    The diner opened at the corner of 43rd Street and 11th Avenue in 1962, and was closed in the spring of 2006.

    No one is there now. It sits behind a chain-link fence. A random corn plant has sprouted through the cracks in the parking lot. Inside, the revolving dessert display case still has its mirror-ball finish, and one can almost hear the clink of rob roys against manhattans after being passed through the little window from the bar.

    The diner’s closing in spring 2006 left some neighbors crying in their egg creams, wondering who will rent the corner lot in Hell’s Kitchen, in a quickly evolving area with an increasing number of high-rise apartment buildings. The owners are seeking almost half a million dollars a year in rent.

    Possible tenants include high-end restaurateurs, a graphic design firm and a skate shop, said Stephen May of the Winick Realty Group, which is representing the owner, the Moinian Group, a developer. So far, all those who have expressed an interest also say they would use the building, though it is likely to be refurbished, he said. Present zoning does not permit another high rise on the corner, Mr. May said.

    “For years and years we went there,” he said, reminiscing about coming into the city from Yonkers, where he knew children of the extended Zelin family, who owned a handful of Market and Munson Diners across the city.

    During a recent visit, Mr. May, 48, pointed out booths covered in ever-so-faux black and white snakeskin. Globular light fixtures hang over the counter, covered in an extruded orange version of candied ginger. The kitchen smells as if it needs a dose of steel wool. And a lone black umbrella, the ghost of Everyman, hangs from the hat rack.

    It was the kind of place, some say, where if you asked for a special known as the Happy Waitress, all you got was a gruff, “She quit,” followed, in short order, by an open grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato, plus fries on the side.

    A former paramedic who now works at Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware up 11th Avenue at 46th Street, and who would give her name only as Marie, recalled rough nights on the ambulance — after a few too many trips to Bellevue — that were best cured by a stop at the Market Diner.

    “You could go over there for scrambled eggs and bourbon,” she said. “You could smoke in there, too. Scrambled eggs and bourbon. Gimme a coffee with a shot.”

    A co-worker of hers at Metropolitan Lumber, Milton Molina, leaned far back in his chair and reminisced: “It was the last place to have banana cream pie. I’ve searched for banana cream pie since the day they closed.”

    But Cynthia Bernot, who was walking her dog on 11th Avenue, remembered contracting a case of food poisoning in the diner, forcing her to leave a celebration later in the Hammerstein Ballroom.

    “I was so sick I had to leave the Joey Ramone birthday party, the first one after he died, and Debbie Harry was on and I didn’t even care,” she said. “It was the tomato sauce, on the pasta. I could never go back there.”

    For drivers, the diner had one crucial claim to fame.

    “At one time it was the only diner on the island of Manhattan that had its own free parking in front, so it was very popular with cab and limo drivers,” said Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for the Kramer character on “Seinfeld,” who gives weekend tours of the neighborhood. He includes the diner because it was used in the episode when the Seinfeld gang purchased a black-market shower head so powerful it was used only for circus elephants.

    T. J. English, the author of “The Westies” (Putnam, 1990) and a former cabdriver himself, said the diner was a major hangout for the notorious Hell’s Kitchen gang in the 1970s and early 1980s. The parking lot was the site of a shooting in the early 1970s by Francis (Mickey) Featherstone, who went on to become the gang’s second-in-command and the eventual informer who helped bring the group down in 1988

    In 1978, members of the gang went to the diner to take a break from dismembering Rickey Tassiello, a debtor and friend of Mr. Featherstone’s, in an apartment on 10th Avenue, an event that made Mr. Featherstone sick to his stomach, Mr. English said.

    “They cut the body up and bagged it in big jumbo plastic bags, to dispose of the body, but first they went to the Market Diner and had a bite to eat,” Mr. English said. Mr. Featherstone got drunk there, and then the gang dumped the body in the East River.

    Asher Zelin, 72, one of the partners who ran the diner, remembers the gang as respectful of the place.

    “If they had any trouble amongst themselves — if a Jersey crowd came over, like an anti-Westies gang — they made sure any arguments were outside in the street,” said Mr. Zelin, who is retired in Delray Beach, Fla. “So there was no mark against the diner, so it wouldn’t lose its license, because if it lost its license, they’d have no place to hang out. As bad as these people were, they were protective of their hangout.”

    Smaller skirmishes would break out at times, when words were exchanged between “people in tuxedos and gowns in one booth, and some of these bad-news guys two booths away,” he said. A squad car usually hung around outside between 4 and 6 a.m., he recalled.

    Saul Zelin, 84, Asher’s cousin, remembers having very good police protection.

    “We always fed the police at half price, and there were a lot of police always around the diner,” said Saul Zelin, who lives in Hewlett, on Long Island.
    He concluded, “Fortunately, we were very lucky — we had no murders, and that was quite a thing for that area, under those circumstances.”

    The diner was known for its famous clients, as well as for its infamous ones. Asher Zelin collected menus signed by Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra and Diane Keaton. He remembers closing off the back room for celebrities and their entourages, especially Sinatra.

    “That was the big thing, at 3 or 4 or 5 a.m., when the bars closed,” he said. “That was back in the days when drinking was the thing. Guys came in pretty loaded, to be honest with you. They were exciting times.”

    The men behind the cash register became a bit famous themselves. Saul Zelin remembers being recognized by a chauffeur in Mexico City. “We became almost like celebrities, but we never got rich there,” he said. “It’s a tough business. We wouldn’t want our children to go in it.”

    Some of the waitresses who worked there recall the Zelins treating them like family, even putting them up in hotels during various blackouts and snowstorms.
    Margie Walker Gleeson, 57, whose mother, Joan, and three sisters all worked at the diner at various times, remembers serving Geraldo Rivera, who was dressed as a priest with a group of undercover cops. “I guess they were on an assignment,” she said. She remembers another customer siphoned gas into her car when she had to get home after the blackout of 1977.

    “You felt like a family, really,” she said. “I think that happens in a lot of diners.”

    Through the years, the diner attracted tipsy Jersey boys on their way home from a night in the city; Rudolph W. Giuliani, who used it for campaigning as well as eating; and transvestites who frequented an adjoining bar.

    The Zelins sold the diner in 2004 to the current owners of the property, and it continued operating as a diner until last year.

    In the face of economic pressures, other vintage diners have been sold and moved. The Munson Diner, which had stood six blocks north of the Market Diner, was moved to Liberty, N.Y., in May 2005. The Moondance Diner, at Grand Street and Avenue of the Americas, arrived in La Barge, Wyo., last month for a second life in the hash-slinging business. The Market Diner property is not for sale, just for rent.

    Since small-restaurant owners are being priced out of the market, Mr. English said, Hell’s Kitchen is particularly vulnerable to losing its continuity.

    “Losing the Market Diner is losing what are the last vestiges of Hell’s Kitchen, as it existed in the ’60s, ’70s and on into the ’80s,” Mr. English said. “There are very few places of that era left.”

    He added, “This is one less place for older people in the neighborhood to hang out, to have some familiar link to the history of the neighborhood.”
    Last edited by brianac; September 13th, 2008 at 05:12 PM. Reason: Formatting

  2. #2


    Comings and Goings

    Flea Markets in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea

    James Estrin/The New York Times

    Published: October 12, 2008

    Antiques collectors and flea market buffs who would like to browse wares in Manhattan can visit two West Side neighborhoods, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, an area some know as Clinton, for scoring finds and deals.

    In Chelsea, there is the Antiques Garage on West 25th Street, a parking garage that for 15 years has housed a flea market every weekend, even in inclement weather. And in Hell’s Kitchen, there is the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market on West 39th Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues.

    The Antiques Garage was scheduled to close and relocate its vendors to the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market next month but has instead received an extension of its lease that will last at least through the holiday season.

    A $1 shuttle transports visitors between the flea markets, leaving twice an hour from each location (

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  3. #3


    We should be politically correct and call it Clinton, New York......

  4. #4


    Why...NOBODY that lives there does (me included- lived there for over 25 years)?
    Clinton sounds so sterile The neighborhood has so much
    more flavor + many of it's businesses have the words
    Hells Kitchen in their names.

  5. #5


    I recently finished reading an oldie but goodie.....The Westies.....talks a little on how its name came about.....Have you read that one?

  6. #6


    Yes-agreed, a good read!
    The big riot (block away from me on 39th), hot as hells kitchen...yada yada.
    There were still remnants of the Westies (Irish gang)
    When I moved here.
    "Hells Kitchen" still trumps that lame "Clinton" moniker, made up by greedy real estate developers as an alternative -
    also Midtown west and even the Mid-West (all lame and not sticking).

    The neighborhood has certainly changed but the name happily remains the same!

  7. #7


    As it should, its part of the city's history not a great part but its a part of what made this city what it is today.

  8. #8
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    I think of midtown-west as the area between Midtown and Hell's Kitchen!!

    Oh, and Clinton?

    For some reason I keep thinking Chelsea.....

  9. #9


    Hells kitchen is roughly mid 30's to 59 st and Chelsea is 14 st up to mid 30's including MSG area.

  10. #10
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Quote Originally Posted by TheFivePoints View Post
    Hells kitchen is roughly mid 30's to 59 st and Chelsea is 14 st up to mid 30's including MSG area.

    I know.

    Go back and re-read what I said.

  11. #11


    Updated On 10/15/08 at 10:47AM

    Hell's Kitchen gets a Dunkin' Donuts, continuing chain's expansion tear

    By Sara Polsky

    The owner of four Dunkin' Donuts franchises in Manhattan and the Bronx has signed a 15-year lease for a fifth space on Ninth Avenue between 47th and 48th streets.

    West Side Donut, Inc. already owns Dunkin' Donuts franchises in Manhattan at 1024 First Avenue and 815 10th Avenue, and in the Bronx at 1320 and 1325 Hutchinson River Parkway, said Jordan Spiegel of Sunburst Advisors, who represented both the tenant and the landlord in the transaction.

    The asking rent for the latest space at 693 Ninth Avenue was $160 per square foot, Spiegel said. He declined to reveal the final rent on the 900-square-foot space.

    The opening of a new store is in keeping with the expansion plans that the donut and budget coffee company has been following in New York. At a time when other chains, including coffee giant Starbucks, are scaling back in the city and elsewhere, Dunkin' is expanding. It plans to triple its U.S. store count to 15,000 by 2020. The chain already has 341 stores, all franchises, in the five boroughs, according to a study by the Center for an Urban Future.

    A tally by The Real Deal found that Dunkin' has already signed at least nine other local deals this year and a dozen in the last two years. One franchisee plans to open 14 Upper West Side stores over the next five years.

    The Hell's Kitchen store "fills a pocket where there is no Dunkin' Donuts nearby. They've been trying get on these blocks for quite some time," as Hell's Kitchen has become a residential area rather than just a nighttime attraction, Spiegel said. "You have a bigger population moving into that area...working, looking for that coffee in the morning."

  12. #12
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    August 28, 2009

    Hell’s Kitchen, Not Clinton, Still Simmers

    By Sewell Chan AND Bobby Allyn

    Patrolman Gerald J. Doherty, 52, surveyed his beat in Hell’s Kitchen in 1959,
    after two teenage boys were killed in a playground on West 46th Street.

    A New York Times article on Sept. 1, 1959,
    described the effort to banish the name Hell’s Kitchen.

    A number of New York City neighborhood names — TriBeCa, NoLIta, Dumbo and now SoBro come to mind — are widely known to be the creation of neighborhood and business interests.

    Hell’s Kitchen is quite the opposite.

    For a half-century now, business interests have been trying to make the neighborhood’s colorful if forbidding name fade away. After all, the name Hell’s Kitchen — the setting for the 1957 musical “West Side Story” [pdf] — hardly seems like an appealing place to rent an expensive apartment and raise children.

    The push to banish the tough, gang-evoking name stems from two killings of two teenagers that occurred 50 years ago this month.

    On Aug. 30, 1959, Andrew Krzesinski and Robert Young, both 16, were fatally stabbed in a playground on West 46th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. A third teenager was stabbed, and two others were beaten. Nine teenagers — most of them said to be gang members — were later charged in connection with the crimes. Several press accounts of the killings referred to the neighborhood as Hell’s Kitchen.

    A brief article in The Times, with the headline “No Hell’s Kitchen, Business Men Say,” recorded the dismay of the West Side Association of Commerce. Its executive vice president, James W. Danahy, declared that the name hadn’t been used “for more than half a century” and was “colorful but erroneous.” The name had originated, The Times reported, citing Mr. Danahy, in “brawls between neighborhood youths and New Jersey sheep and cattle men delivering their stock” to West Side slaughterhouses.

    The suggested, more genteel replacement for Hell’s Kitchen: Clinton, derived from DeWitt Clinton Park, a 5.8-acre patch of green space that sits between West 52nd and 54th Streets, from 11th to 12th Avenues.
    For a while, the modified name appeared to stick. The entry for Hell’s Kitchen in the first edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City, published in 1995, calls the name “largely disused.” The entry, by George Winslow, describes the area — bounded loosely by 59th Street to the north, Eighth Avenue to the east, 30th Street to the south and the Hudson River to the west — as a largely Irish area of slaughterhouses, warehouses, lumberyards and factories, many of them linked with a railroad station that opened in 1851.

    “The name Hell’s Kitchen was perhaps taken from that of a gang formed in the area in 1868, or adopted by local police in the 1870s,” Mr. Winslow wrote.

    Eastern Europeans moved into the area in the early 20th century, followed by southern blacks and Puerto Ricans in the 1940s.

    Even as the neighborhood has evolved and gentrified — lately, it has become popular among gay men — the name Hell’s Kitchen has stuck. Of 10 or so residents and workers in the neighborhood interviewed recently, none used the name Clinton.

    “If I hear someone refer to it as Clinton I won’t correct them, but to me it’s Hell’s Kitchen,” said Jeffrey Self, a 22-year-old writer, who said the historic name “has a certain allure.”

    Collette Black, 54, a stage director, said: “The people who live in this neighborhood will always call it Hell’s Kitchen. The new high-risers might call it Clinton, but people without doormen will continue to call it what it is. I’m proud of it. If I heard Clinton I wouldn’t think this neighborhood. I’d think they were talking about Brooklyn or someplace.” (Ms. Black was thinking of Clinton Hill, we suspect.)

    Olga Lebron, 42, a hairdresser, said of Hell’s Kitchen: “It’s what it’s called. It makes people’s heads turn. And it’s what people like about it.”
    Even those who don’t like the name use it.

    Asked about the name Clinton, Thomas McCormick, 56, a steam fitter, responded:
    Anything is better than Hell’s Kitchen. … You might as well name it after yourself. But 20 years ago you wouldn’t be asking me this question. Then the streets were filled with hookers and junkies. And I remember. I’m old so I use old name. A new name doesn’t change the place.
    Mr. McCormick added that “other people who are old” are not going to call it by the new name.

    Kate Rooney, 26, a restaurant manager, said of the proposed alternative: “Clinton is a stupid example of gentrification. I’ll never call it that. It’s a name like Hell’s Kitchen that make New York neighborhoods quirky.”
    City Room tracked down Mr. Winslow, who left New York City in 2003 and lives in Tillamook, Ore., where he is a freelance writer

    Told that Hell’s Kitchen is not — at least now — a “largely disused” name, he responded with delight. “It’s actually great to hear that people are using the name by which the neighborhood has been known, because it does conjure up that old history,” he said.

    Hell's Kitchen (Or Do You Call It Clinton?)

    The name Hell's Kitchen, unlike those of Dumbo and SoHo, was not a creation of the real estate world. CityRoom revisits how the push to change the menacing moniker occurred nearly 50 years ago, when three teenagers were stabbed and two were beaten on West 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. Business owners became upset with the press using "Hell's Kitchen" in coverage of the crime and offered the more neutral "Clinton" after the DeWitt Clinton Park. For real estate purposes, Clinton has become more accepted, but does anyone really use it? A 56-year-old told CityRoom, "Anything was better than Hell's Kitchen... But 20 years ago you wouldn’t be asking me this question. Then the streets were filled with hookers and junkies. And I remember. I’m old so I use old name. A new name doesn’t change the place." And a 26-year-old said, "Clinton is a stupid example of gentrification. I’ll never call it that. It’s a name like Hell’s Kitchen that make New York neighborhoods quirky." Google Maps shows Clinton above 42nd Street and Hell's Kitchen below, while Wikipedia sticks with Hell's Kitchen. And the city can't make up its mind: The DOT calls it "Clinton/Hell's Kitchen" while the City Planning office goes with "Clinton."

  13. #13


    It's great how the Midtown skyline confronts the neighborhood.

  14. #14
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Nairobi Hilton

    Default Very well put, Derek.

    Confront is the perfect word!

  15. #15


    Some nice stuff. Just between 50th and 56th Streets.

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