It was a bad area, and criminals there were called members of the "gas house gang." This is not related to baseball's 1930s St. Louis Cardinals, also known as the "Gas House Gang."
9 October 1879, New York Times, pg. 2:
At a meeting of the Cornall-Hoskins Club of the Sixteenth Assembly District, last evening, at No. 427 Second-avenue, the names of over 40 new members were added to the roll.
This is what is known as the "Gas-house Dictrict," because the hundreds of employes in the gas-works there have for years been practically compelled to vote the Democratic ticket.
4 November 1885, New York Times, pg. 8:
John McGovern, of No. 507 West Twenty-sixth-street, was working the "gas house" district in behalf of Dunham,
15 November 1894, New York
POLITICS AND POETRY.
Good Verses, but They Didn't Go with the
Gas House Gang.
17 February 1895, New York Times, pg. 16:
Six boys were arraigned in the Harlem Police Court yesterday on charges of burglary. All belong to the "Gas House Gang," many members of which have been sent to the State prison and the penitentiaries.
The American Metropolis
by Frank Moss
New York: P. F. Collier
...but perhaps the most unique of all vicious drinking places is a "dead house" on 18th Street, in what is called the "gas-house district." It is a "Mecca" for vagrants and "bums" of New York, Brooklyn and New Jersey.