A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 23, 2004
Alphabet City (East Village, Manhattan)
"Alphabet City" is the nickname of a neighborhood in the East Village of Manhattan, where Avenues A, B, C, and D can be found. The nickname has been cited in print since at least the early 1980s.

"Alphabet City" was the title of a 1983 novel by David Price and a 1984 movie. Surprisingly, I couldn't find earlier. There's no mention of "Alphabet City" in the books City in Slang (1993) or Naming New York: Manhattan Places & How They Got Their Names (2001).

"A, B, C, and D" for "Assault, Battery, Crime and Death" was used in the 1980s, but doesn't apply to the gentrified neighborhoods of today. In 2018, the Chelsea properties owned by Alphabet Inc./Google was also dubbed "Alphabet City."

Wikipedia: Alphabet City, Manhattan
Alphabet City is a neighborhood located within the East Village in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names. It is bordered by Houston Street to the south and by 14th Street to the north, along the traditional northern border of the East Village and south of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Some famous landmarks include Tompkins Square Park and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Amelia liked to hang out in Alphabet City, a low-rent area sandwiched between the East Village, the East River, and the Lower East Side. One night, she took me to a tiny, cramped bar on Avenue B: hard faces and wild eyes inside, dark streets and crumbling buildings outside. The place had a sense of danger, which I liked. Over many shots of whiskey, Amelia told me Alphabet City was notorious and the avenue names "A, B, C, and D" stood for "Assault, Battery, Crime and Death." I liked that as well. But she said it too was changing, and soon all of Manhattan would be too gentrified and expensive for any one normal to live in.

OCLC WorldCat record
Alphabet city : a novel
Author: David Price
Publisher: London : Olive, 1983
Edition/Format: Print book : Fiction : English

Wikipedia: Alphabet City (film)
Alphabet City is a 1984 American crime drama film directed by Amos Poe. The story follows a young gangster of Italian descent named Johnny, who has been given control over his own neighborhood by the Mob. Then unknown actors Vincent Spano (as Johnny), Jami Gertz, and Michael Winslow give compelling performances in this low-budget crime/drama/thriller. Acclaimed film and stage actress Zohra Lampert plays Johnny's mother. The film is set in Alphabet City, a part of the East Village in New York City.

OCLC WorldCat record
Alphabet city.
Author: Language (Musical group)
Publisher: Hollywood, Calif. : A & M, ℗1984.
Edition/Format: Music LP : English

27 April 1984, New York (NY) Times, pg. A27:
The neighborhood, known as Alphabet City because of its lettered avenues that run easterly from First Avenue to the river, has for years been occupied by a stubbornly persistent plague of drug dealers in narcotics whose flagrantly open drug dealing has destroyed the community life of the neighborhood.

5 May 1984, New York (NY) Times, pg. 17:
"Alphabet City," which opened yesterday at the Manhattan I and other theatres in and around the city, is one of those exercises in romantic film making that owe more to the history of cinema than to the reality of the milieu that is their subject.

Here is a film that draws its title from the Lower East Side Avenues - A, B and C - that are is setting, and takes as its subject the criminal activities of a young man named Johnny (Vincent Spano), who has been granted this fief by organized crime.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • Friday, July 23, 2004 • Permalink