Monday, July 18, 2011

Retired NYPD detective sergeant Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett describe how the heroin trade threatened the lower-Manhattan neighborhood known as Alphabet City in the 1980s. In their book Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment, and the Battle for New York City's Lower East Side, Codella describes growing up in Brooklyn's Canarsie neighborhood, where old-time mob capos and cops lived side-by-side, and he gives a historical snapshot of the Lower East Side—once one of Gotham's most dangerous neighborhoods—and the men who brought order to its mayhem.


Bruce Bennett and Michael Codella

Comments [9]

Ben Perowsky

I had a rehearsal space on Rivington st. from '89 til recently. We caught the tail end of them selling "good time" on the corner. Users would line up like they were waiting for the bus btwn Rivington and Stanton on Ludlow st. Then their man would come by hand it all out and everyone would scatter. Right in the middle of the afternoon.

Jul. 18 2011 10:00 PM
myriam from new york

moved to the Bowery and Prince in jan 1988 and it was the walmart of drugs..every public phone had 2 drug dealers waiting for orders before cell phones, not mentionned by the 2 writers some policemen in the precinct in the east village were on the take Now we are fighting noise and clubs open till 4 am big change, but miss the old days of atist and painters and musicians

Jul. 18 2011 02:19 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What I want to know is, how did that complex set of checks & balances that got in the way of just arresting the dealers get put in place?

Jul. 18 2011 01:37 PM

my dad was a TNT officer in the 80's in brooklyn, i remember as kid hearing horror stories about the south side(williamsburg) among many other areas.

Jul. 18 2011 01:36 PM
jhon from Bronx

I was a narcotics cop on the LES in the early 2000's (MSDND). The ammount of drugs in Alphabet City was still massive back then. I have worked in the Bronx for the past 7 years, and can honestly say that the Alphabet City area is as busy as many areas of brooklynn and the Bronx. The work Mike and the Narco rangers of the 80's and 90's was stupendous. They worked in an area that offered no support and were able to really put a dent in the LES drug trade. Good Job Mike...stay safe

Jul. 18 2011 01:35 PM
Karen from Stuyvesant Town.

I lived on 8th Street between B and C from about '79 to '80 and then Avenue D between 8th and 9th in a loft building over a grocery store from about '81 to '84.

There was a lot of bad stuff going on, and I had to have eyes in the back of my head to get home, but from my perspective there were a lot of great things going on in the neighborhood too. There were a lot of artists, actors, and musicians using empty lots, storefronts in exciting ways. It was kind of like the wild west, but that includes the freedom too.

I'm just saying that you can paint this time and this place in many ways. It wasn't all bad.

Jul. 18 2011 01:34 PM
JB from Inwood

From my experience down in that area in the 80s and 90s, it was cell phones and beepers that changed how the drug trade was carried on - there no longer needed to be one centralized spot. Police efforts were fairly predictable and some spots clearly had some protection from above. By the time I got out of the life, it was more important to know a phone number than a spot.

Jul. 18 2011 01:33 PM
mary from downton

I remember getting a letter (late 80s) from an NYPD drug task force (Operation Pressure Point??) ) saying they were concentrating on wiping drugs out from 3rd
to the west side of Ave A.

I took this stroke of genius to mean that all the dealers from 3rd to A would be pushed across the street from me on the east side of A. Did they send me this letter to let me know it was get drastically worse? Or were they thinking I'd be thrilled liven on the west side of A between 10th and 11th.

Jul. 18 2011 01:32 PM
Jeremy Freedman from New York

In 1980, I moved to 7th St. between C and D, which was a pretty good block. But the block between B and C was substantially abandoned and the empty buildings were taken over by drug dealers. That was obvious to my naive self and to everyone in the neighborhood. If the cops had wanted to make arrests, they could have walked up to the dealers and put cuffs on them. But cops had no interest in arrests until the first gentrification wave in the mid-80's. Until then, they had no interest in cleaning up the neighborhood. Who was paying them off and why did the city abandon the poor people of the east village to the predations of drug dealers?

Jul. 18 2011 01:23 PM

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