Hell's Kitchen has been my neighborhood since 2002. It’s a great place to live – a few blocks uptown Central Park begins, 5 stops downtown on the A train is Greenwich Village, Broadway is walking distance and every possible cuisine can be got on 9th avenue. Hell's Kitchen is the area’s historic name. ‘Clinton’ is the fashionable real estate term. But I’m disinterested in the sterile, towering condominiums that strangle the old tenement blocks. New money, shee-shee restaurants and trendy bars spin a bland yarn.
The redbrick blocks tell a different story – one of iron-works, coal furnaces, abattoirs, of an elevated railroad network, a tavern on every corner and of gangs. The most famous gang of all: the Gophers operated from seventh to eleventh avenues and fourteenth to forty-second street. The Gophers like gangs before them plundered the freight cars and depots of the New York Central Railroad along Eleventh Avenue. Their favorite watering hole was a saloon in Battle Row (West 39th street between 10 & 11th avenue) kept by Mallet Murphy.
Here and there, one can still see the Irish influence in the names of local bars. The only indicator left of Hell's Kitchen can be found at “Hell’s KitchenPark” – which is far from hellish but is at least a namesake.