Shaffer Family Values

May 28, 2007 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

89 Clay Street

After getting a little housework done I finally have time to sit on my ass and sip a brewski. The laundry has been run, the dishwasher is loaded and groceries have been purchased. Life is good.

This morning I could not for the life of me decide what to feature for today’s installment of Greenpoint crime blotter fun. Thankfully, Greenpoint gave me a hand: at precisely 8:30 a.m. This is when I got up from my desk, peered out my living room room and discovered an ambulance parked directly in front of my apartment building.

The EMS workers didn’t seem to know where they should be headed. Thankfully Vito, a gentleman who lives across the street had a word with them and whatever he said seemed to help. The previous is pretty remarkable given that Vito is mentally retarded and his speech is, for the most part, unintelligible.

Vito is a neighborhood institution— or he is to me and the guys who work at “The Thing” anyway. On any given day he can be found hanging out at the laundromat over on Huron Street (which presumably, his family manages). I’ll never forget the time Vito saw Kerry speaking on a cordless phone. He left the store and came back less than five minutes later with a phone receiver. JUST A PHONE RECEIVER— with which he commenced to strike up a ‘conversation’ with Kerry. This was hilarious beyond words. I like Vito; he brings a much-needed touch of Greenpoint zen to my life. But I digress…

After watching the ambulance episode this morning I remembered the Shaffers. They are my very favorite Greenpoint family. The local patricians may not have seen fit to name a street after them like the Meseroles, Bennets, Calyers or Provosts, but they made their mark nonetheless— in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle crime blotter. Repeatedly. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Joseph “Grandpa” Shaffer…

June 18, 1867

SENT TO JAIL.— Justice Dailey yesterday sentenced Jospeh Shaffer, of Greenpoint, to jail for 10 days, on the complaint of Officer Beckingham, of the Forty-Seventh Precinct, who found him very drunk and disorderly in the vicinity of the ferry.

And take my word for it, the acorn nut does not fall far from the tree…

June 8, 1894

A young man entered the Fifth Street Station house in Long Island City yesterday afternoon and said he had been shot in Greenpoint a few minutes before. He gave his name as John Shaffer, and said that at the corner of West and Huron Streets he met a man he had never seen before. He had some words with the fellow who was about his own age, 19 years, when the latter pulled out a revolver and shot him in the knee. The Greenpoint police were notified and an investigation was made. Captain Rhodes, who examined Shaffer, thinks he invented the whole story.

What about the lovely ladies of the Shaffer brood, you ask? Well, let’s just say you probably don’t want to marry one of them…

June 28, 1884

Rosanna Shaffer, of No. 89 Clay Street, Greenpoint, was arrested on a warrant this morning, for assaulting her husband, Fred Shaffer.

Poor Fred. What is a hen-pecked husband to do? Kick the family dog, I’m guessing. Shit rolls downhill. Even in Greenpoint.

August 24, 1884

Yesterday morning while a number of children were at play on Clay Street, Greenpoint, a large dog, the property of Frederick Shaeffer, of No. 89 Clay Street, bounded out of a yard and sprang upon a little girl, the daughter of John Hawley, of No. 79 Clay Street, and fastened its teeth in her right arm, lacerating it in a fearful manner. The dog was taken to the station house and hanged by Doorman Brennan, The girl’s wound was cauterized.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I know these people. I can only imagine what their holiday celebrations were like, but I strongly suspect knuckle sandwiches were on the menu alongside the turkey, stuffing and cranberry dressing. The Shaffers are were my neighbors. That’s why I am grateful four blocks and 150+ years separate us.

Miss Heather

Photo: 89 Clay Street as it stands today, taken by Miss Heather.


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