Clayton’s Corner: Essex Street Crack Busts in the 1990s [PHOTOS]

Posted on: December 30th, 2019 at 5:00 am by

In this next installment of Clayton’s Corner, Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson exhumes the drug-heavy history of Essex Street in the 1990s.

The bodega at the end of my block (179 Essex Street) was a cocaine store. One of the owners was murdered in Washington Heights. As locals, we were regular customers. Never bought coke there. But, here on the Lower East Side, most of the bodegas sold some kind of illegal product. Was just the life in the neighborhood.

The owners of the building were two Orthodox Jews from Grand Street. They owned a number of buildings in the nieghborhood. After the drug bust at 179 Essex, I was able to follow them around the neighborhood.

Both were true characters, and I photographed their pursuits.

Documenting this period made me thankful I left the Soho art world filled with pettyness, ego, malicious gossip, and connected me to the realness of the street and the people. I was comfortably able to go deep underground. I loved the vibrancy and have been blessed to be a part of these different worlds.

Four Brothers Bodega was also right around the corner from where I lived (110 Stanton Street). This image is a coke bust. One interesting detail from the shot is the kid on rollerblades the cop is leading off the block is the son of the then-head of Hell Raiser, a brand of heroin sold on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton. In elementary school, the boy was caught with a gun in his bookbag.

A drug addict was busted on my block by the “TNT” cop crew. This team used to organize in the former parking lot at East Houston (currently, The Ludlow luxury rentals) on Tuesdays and Thursdays (“Tactical Narcotics Team”). When the officers screamed, Elsa and I would run after them and document the impending drug bust. Exciting times. Most cops hated this, but was a part of the program.

Here is a hooker cooking up some crack in an Essex Street apartment. She had been part of Shadow Artist Richard Hambleton’s group.

Recent Stories

New Condos Teased at 15-Story ‘One Essex Crossing’

Each month brings more significant updates for Essex Crossing. On the heels of the International Center of Photography launching its new flagship, the billion-dollar Lower East Side development this week rolled out more info about the CetraRuddy-designed condo tower at 202 Broome Street (aka Site 3). Dubbed One Essex Crossing, the fifteen-story newcomer features 83 […]

Broome Street Gets an Exclusive Nightclub by Omar Hernandez

Where Happy Ending once tormented this Broome Street block, and Better Days was anything but, something uber-upscale is now replacement. Perhaps even too upscale for its own good. By now you’ve probably seen the well-placed hype pieces about the newest nightclub at 302 Broome Street, led by nightlife impresario Omar Hernandez. He converted the space […]

Ten Injured, Including Firefighters, in Massive Mulberry Street Blaze Last Night [Updated]

The three-alarm blaze that engulfed 70 Mulberry Street last night spread quickly, destroying the upper levels of the historic Public School 23. The fire started shortly after 8:45pm on the fourth floor. Firefighters from Ladder 20 and police from the 5th Precinct were the first responders. More than two hundred fire personnel ultimately arrived to […]

3-Alarm Fire Engulfs PS 23 Building on Mulberry Street

Shortly before 9pm this evening, a three-alarm fire was sparked at 70 Mulberry Street (at Bayard). Within minutes, the historic building – erected in the nineteen century as Public School 23 – was in flames. More than one hundred firefighters were called to the scene to battle the blaze which is apparently confined to the […]

The Year of the Rat Scurries In

It’s the Year of the Rat! This week marks the 21st year of New York City’s Lunar New Year celebration, and no doubt the organizers are scurrying around in preparation for a veritable smorgasbord of festivities. As in years past, the festivities will kick off with the explosive Firecracker Ceremony Saturday morning at 11:00am (January 25) […]