BYT is throwing its inaugural True Crime Festival down in DC this weekend, and the lineup is STACKED. I’m maximally jealous that my coworkers’ll be chillin’ with the BuzzFeed Unsolved Boys and The Last Podcast On The Left without me! That’s not to say ye olde Big Apple is by any means short of true crime vibes, though, so for this edition of Scene in NYC, I thought I’d give a nod to one of the best (and most crime-laden) movies of all time – Goodfellas!
I assume most people know that the film is an adaptation of Wiseguy, crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fictional account of the life of Henry Hill, a famed mafia gangbanger turned informant. Scenes were shot all over New York and New Jersey, and while many of the locations have either shuttered or been torn down entirely, there are a few which still remain. And the one I’m going to talk about today is called Neir’s Tavern, which is located at 87-48 78th Street in Woodhaven, about a five minute walk from 75 St-Elderts Lane Station on the J line.
The bar itself is old as all hell (one of THE oldest in NYC, and probably haunted AF), and was opened all the way back in 1829 to accommodate shady motherfuckers who frequented a nearby racetrack. It’s changed its name several times over the last 189 years (FKA Old Blue Pump House, Old Abbey and Neir’s Social Hall) and even used to contain a bowling alley and ballroom, but now it’s just Neir’s Tavern, a neighborhood joint.
The bar has been featured in several films (including Tower Heist with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy), but the crown jewel is obviously Goodfellas! It serves as a fictional hub during the infamous Lufthansa heist, which (as you should be aware) was a real ass crime, and was one of the biggest cash robberies in American history – the equivalent of $22M was jacked. While Jimmy Burke (born James Conway) was alleged to be the mastermind behind the scheme, he was never officially charged. (Granted, he died of stomach cancer while in prison, so it’s not like he was out there having a really great time, but still impressive that he avoided additional clink time for the famous theft.)
As Anthony Bourdain notes at the end of this segment of Parts Unknown, the most iconic moment in the Neir’s scenes in Goodfellas is when you can clearly see the moment that Jimmy decides to whack Morrie big time (and Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” plays):
Shouldn’t have been such a goddamn nudge, Morrie! No money for you!
Despite how fucking cool Neir’s is, what with its Goodfellas connection and it’s insanely long existence, it doesn’t seem like it’s a spot that’s really blown up yet. And I’m not saying I want that to happen, because nothing is worse than a bunch of punk ass yuppies flooding a dope place and ruining it for everyone. What I’m saying is it’s 100% worth popping by to check it out for yourself and get steeped in some H-I-S-T-O-R-Y whilst sipping a good old fashioned unpretentious alcoholic beverage. (They also have a food menu with some Goodfellas-themed burgers, if you’re into that sort of thing.) And don’t forget to pour one out for Jimmy Burke, father of the Lufthansa heist. Tough to say if he ever actually went to Neir’s (I’d guess not, but you never know), but his spirit will live on there forever thanks to the magic of Robert De Niro and Hollywood!