Location: 233 Broadway
On the night of July 30, 1935, the voice of special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey sailed out of Manhattan and poured out of tens of thousands of radios across the Five Boroughs. For a half hour, the Special Prosecutor sang an imperative plea, a call to arms for all New Yorkers to take back the city from the racketeers strangling it to death.
He explained that the foul stench of organized crime was suffocating New York, levying a “huge and unofficial sales tax” on everything from ice and coal to chicken and fish. He concluded his broadcast with an invitation for anyone who wanted help to visit him at his office.
If you have evidence of organized crime,” he concluded, “bring it to us…The rest is our job. We will do our best.”
A Cathedral of Crime Fighting
Personally hired by Governor Lehman and championed by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Dewey would wage a war against organized crime from a command post on the 14th floor of the Woolworth Building, transforming the Cathedral of Commerce into a cathedral of crime fighting.
Located far enough away from City Hall to thwart Tammany Hall spies, the 10,000 square foot fortress of an office had an untapable phone cable and tamper proof filing cabinets locked inside of a state-of-the-art, Holmes Alarm bank vault. Venetian blinds prevented telescope equipped gangsters from spying on informants, while plainclothes detectives patrolled the lobby 27/7.
The Man Who Had Never Tasted Pastrami
With his castle built, Dewey, a farm boy from Owosso, Michigan, who had never heard of pastrami, set about building a multi-ethnic crime fighting army. He brought in Eunice Carter, one of the first African American female attorneys in America, and the future Irish Catholic D.A., Frank Hogan. Half of Dewey’s team was Jewish, seven held Phi Beta Kappas, and fourteen graduated from Harvard or Columbia.
He staffed the office with twenty assistants, four process servers, ten investigators, four clerks, nineteen stenographers, a filing system wizard and sixty three NYPD officers hand picked by La Guardia’s police chief, Lewis Valentine. The underworld was screwed.
The office’s first target was Arthur Flegenheimer, a gangland heavy mostly known as Dutch Schultz. Soon, Dewey had his team shadowing Schultz, bugging his offices and phones, causing the gangster to take out a contract on Dewey’s life. Gangland intervened on behalf of the Special Prosecutor, and Schultz was gunned down in a Newark chophouse.
A Tsunami of Prostitutes
With the Dutchman dead, Dewey zeroed in on Lucky Luciano, New York’s overload of vice. After months of reconnaissance, Dewey’s team simultaneously raided 200 brothels around the city and herded hundreds of prostitutes up to the 14th floor of the Woolworth building to hear their stories, and boy did they sing.
In the office’s crowning achievement, Lucky Luciano would be sentenced to 30 to 50 years for compulsory prostitution. Using the successes of his racket-busting prosecutions, Thomas E. Dewey would become Governor of New York and launch two unsuccessful presidential bids. But Dewey and Luciano weren’t done with each other by a long shot.