WHEN you are driving or biking east on Delancey Street under the Williamsburg Bridge approach, and suddenly decided you’re going the wrong way and want to head west instead, there are several options to get to the north, westbound section of Delancey. Willet Street? Nope, one way south, if you’re in a car. If you forge ahead, you have an opportunity, this one-block street that heads north and will get you under the Willie.
It’s not just a passageway, though, it’s actually a named street, Sheriff Street. It’s one of a group of north-south streets in the Lower East Side east of Pitt Street that have been largely out of existence since the 1950s that include Willet, Sheriff, Columbia, Cannon, Lewis, Goerck (later renamed Baruch Place) and Mangin. Bits and pieces of many of them are still in place, but the shortest piece belongs to Sheriff, today just a one-way passage beneath the bridge.
Here’s a map of the Lower East Side from 1949 showing this ill-fated collection of north-south streets.
The Gompers and Baruch Houses were constructed between 1956 and 1964, eliminating most of these streets and all the old buildings from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Most were built as cold water flats and only had heating and hot water added later. Columbia Street was retained as a north-south route, and bits and pieces of the former streets are still to be found here and there. All that remains of Sheriff is that small piece under the bridge…. or is that all that remains? We’ll see…
What did Sheriff Street look like? We have a good idea thanks to the Municipal Archives and its collection of 1940 tax photos. Here is a synagogue at #58 Sheriff.
#70 Sheriff at Rivington. The Williamsburg Bridge approach can be seen in the background: the only thing presently remaining in the area.
This scene at #86 Sheriff is typical of the streetscape of the early 20th Century.
I’m not sure which school this was at #116-126 Sheriff at Stanton Street but it was impressive.
I hinted that there may be other vestiges of Sheriff Street remaining. This ancient Type 6 Bishop Crook still stands, rusted but unbowed, at the former corner of Broome, which runs through here as a sidewalk in the Hillman Houses at the edge of the Luther Gulick Playground.
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