A Sordid Corner and Its Demise

This tiny block between West Street and the historic Weehawken Street is made up of a few building that are in various states of neglect. Once, this block housed a State Prison, until the prisoners were moved to Sing Sing.

Due to its proximity to the piers, the block eventually became known for its seamen’s bars. The block was always used to shady purposes, even in the case where it was just a wooden shack, said to be used for “unsavory exchanges”. Eventually, the block came to include Badlands, Sneakers, and the Ramrod, which were known as leather bars.

The Ramrod was the starting point of what was headlined as the “West Street Massacre”, when a 38-year-old former transit police officer named Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire and shot 40 rounds into the crowd outside. He then continued down the block towards Badlands. He was arrested and found innocent due to insanity. Vernon Kroening, 32, and Jorg Wenz, 24, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In the three bars, men were badly wounded.

The sites now are made up of a bar called the Bongo, where the owner stated that she was not aware of the history of the site until after opening her bar, and when she found out, she posted a narrative about it in the bathroom.

The Sneakers building is still there, but interestingly was recently donated by Louis Bourgeois’ son to the Lenape people, who were here before the settlers arrived. The badlands building is now for rent and is not being used.