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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Bombing of Fraunces Tavern -- January 24, 1975

Thirty-five years ago this week, on January 24, 1975, a bomb blast ripped through the Fraunces Tavern annex, killing four people and injuring more than 50 others.

The bomb exploded at 1:25 p.m. -- just in the middle of the lunch rush -- destroying the entryway, windows, and interior staircase of the tavern's 19th-century annex at 101 Broad Street (the building to the right in the photo above). While diners at the tavern's main restaurant were shielded from the blast by the building's thick walls, patrons upstairs at the Anglers' Club of New York City were not so lucky.

That afternoon, police received a tip that the bomb had been the work of the F.A.L.N. (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional), a Puerto Rican nationalist group. Formed in the late 1960s, the F.A.L.N. had already claimed responsibility for two smaller operations, a series of bombs that had gone off in October 1969 (causing no injuries), and one in Harlem about a month before the Fraunces Tavern bombing that had injured a police officer, ultimately causing him to lose his eye.

The F.A.L.N. directed the police to a phone booth in the Financial District where they found a note explaining that the Fraunces Tavern bomb was a retaliation for "the CIA ordered bomb that murdered Angel Luis Chavonnier and Eddie Ramos, two innocent young workers who supoorted [sic] Puerto Rican independence" as well as the "maiming of ten innocent a Mayaguez, Puerto Rico dining place on Saturday the eleventh of January, 1975."

Until its dissolution in the early 1980s, the F.A.L.N. would remain one of the most destructive terrorist groups in America. Throughout the rest of the decade numerous bombs were placed -- mainly in New York and Chicago -- causing millions of dollars in damages and a few injuries. The next fatality did not occur until August 1977, when Charles Steinberg was killed at the Mobil Building on 42nd Street. The F.A.L.N's last bombing in New York was took place on December 31, 1982, when bombs were exploded at Federal Plaza, One Police Plaza, near Foley Square, and in Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. Three NYPD officers were badly injured in the blasts.

The F.A.L.N. dissolved in 1983; no one was ever arrested or prosecuted for the Fraunces Tavern attack and no plaque or other commemoration adorns the building to memorialize the loss of life that day.

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Read more about Fraunces Tavern and its role in the American Revolution in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City

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