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Archive for the ‘Castellammarese War’ Category

Vito-Genovese-The-Don-of-Greenwich-Village

Vito Genovese:  The Don of Greenwich Village. His Homes, Apartments and Businesses

Addresses:

43 5th Avenue- Apartment in 1935

Status: Standing

29 Washington Square- Apartment in 1937-1944

Status: Standing

180 Thompson ERB Strapping Co.- Legal Business

Status: Standing

 

Suave, shrewd, cunning and cruel, Vito Genovese’s tentacles stretched out across the globe from a tiny parcel of land in Manhattan’s bohemian Greenwich Village. Surrounded by clannish Sicilians on all sides and the Irish waterfront mob to the west, the Neapolitan gangster carved out a Mafia dynasty on the streets of the Village through a blend of treachery, gunplay and subterfuge.
A scoundrel until his dying breath, Genovese’s lifelong criminal career would take him from stick-up kid to Joe The Boss Masseria’s ace hitman to Mussolini’s bosom buddy. Over time, Genovese grew to be a gangland legend that would one day topple Lucky Luciano.

 

Vito-Genovese-Map

1. Vito and Anna Genovese’s first luxury apartment at 43 5th Avenue. 2. Vito and Anna Genovese’s second luxury apartment at 29 Washington Square West. 3. Headquarters of Genovese’s ERB Strapping corp, 180 Thompson Street.

 

The Streets of Greenwich Village

Born in 1897 in the outskirts of Naples, Genovese jumped a steamer bound for the United States at the age of 16 and settled in the Neapolitan Italian colony in Greenwich Village.

 

The bohemian neighborhood, known for its unorthodox sexuality, artists, writers and drug users, proved to be fertile incubator of the Genovese Crime Family. Vito’s first arrest sent him to the workhouse on Blackwell’s Island for carrying a loaded revolver.

 

The young Vito excelled in gunplay, assassinations and murder for hire, and by the time of Prohibition, his talents were in incredible demand. Collars for illegal guns, felonious assault and homicide followed, but Vito always beat the odds and the charges. According to Genovese’s 1958 Bureau of Prisons Classification Study:

 

“He is a suave, shrewd, cruel, calculating, cunning, ruthless individual, who would use any means to accomplish his objectives.”- Bureau of Prisons

 

The Greenwich Village Crew:

Tony Bender Strollo, Mike Miranda & Tommy Ryan Eboli

Prohibition was very good to Genovese and his gang tightened its grip around the Village’s rackets. Narcotics, prostitution, and bootlegging, Genovese’s Neapolitan mob ran the streets of the Prohibition Era Greenwich Village where law breaking became sheik. And pet gangsters were all the rage.

 

Tony Bender Strollo served as Genovese’s second in command, specializing in illegal lotteries. He eventually became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams bankrolling nightclubs, burlesque joints and gay bars. Tommy Ryan Eboli, a volatile ex-boxer and wheelman, provided the muscle battering anyone who stood in the way. In the future, Ryan would make a name for himself as a boxing promoter who cold-cocked a referee during a bout. Gunman and narcotics pusher, Mike Miranda rounded out the violent Greenwich Village heavies.

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Joe Masseria’s Top Gunman

Genovese’s penchant for solving problems with murder eventually caught the eye of Lucky Lucanio who introduced Vito to Joe Masseria a mafia kingpin warring with Toto DeAquila, the mafia’s reigning Boss of Bosses.

 

An old-fashioned Sicilian, Masseria preferred to work only with Sicilian gangsters but Lucky convinced Masseria to overlook Vito’s Neapolitan ancestry.

 

vito-genovese-mugshot

A NYPD mug shot of Vito Genovese.

 

On August 11, 1922 the duo put the blast on Umberto Valenti, DeAquila’s favorite assassin, at famed Italian eatery John’s of 12th Street. Later in 1928, Luciano and Genovese picked off DeAquilla on Avenue A.

 

During the Castellammarese Mafia War (1930-1932), Geneovese’s trigger finger served Joe The Boss well offing Gaetano “Tom” Reina with a double barrel shotgun. According to Lucky Luciano in the Last Testament of Lucky Luciano:

 

“Vito told me that when Reina saw him he started to smile and wave his hand. When he done that, Vito blew his head off with a shotgun.”—Lucky Luciano

 

However, Masseria’s lust for power would be his undoing and Vito would eventually turn his aim against the boss, helping to gun down the mafia chieftain at the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in Cony Island, ending the Castellammarese War for good.

 

 

A Vito Genovese Love Story

Following the end of the Castellammarese War and the death of his first wife Donata, who died of tuberculosis, the love sick and forlorn Genovese made eyes for another bride, his cousin, Anna Vernotico. Unfortunately, Anna was already married, but that didn’t deter Genovese.

 

On March 16, 1932, Police officers discovered Anna’s husband, Gerard Vernotico, hog tied and strangled on the roof of 124 Thompson Street. According to The Valachi Papers:

 

“According to New York City Police records, one Gerard Vernotico, age twenty-nine, of 191 Prince Street, was found dead at 2:15P.M., March 16, 1932. On the roof of a building at 124 Thompson Street.

 

124-Thompson-Street-Vito-Genovese-Murder

To propose to his future wife Anna Vernotico, Vito Genovese had her husband strangled to death on the roof of 124 Thompson Street.

 

Twelve days after the homicide, the loving couple tied the knot in the Municipal Building with Tony Bender Strollo serving as best man. To celebrate, the newlyweds moved into a palatial apartment at 43 5th Avenue, just north of Washington Square Park on tony Fifth Avenue.

 

Anna and Vito Genovese’s Apartments

The Beaux Arts, Parisian style, apartment building define style and sophistication. The 11-story building boasted a grand entrance with limestone lampposts, a 24-hour doorman, and apartments with soaring 10-1/2 foot ceilings. Future tenants at 43 5th Avenue would include Marlin Brando, Julia Roberts, Noah Baubach and other top flight New Yorkers. Click to see inside the building.

 

Vito and Anna Genovese lived in the palatial 43 5th Avenue apartment building.

Vito and Anna Genovese lived in the palatial 43 5th Avenue apartment building.

 

For decoration, the Mafia Chieftain began amassing an art collection that would be worth $200,000 at the time of his death, despite the fact that he filed taxes as a “surplus paper dealer.”

 

To be closer to his Thompson Street social clubs, Genovese moved to 29 Washington Square West. Located across the street from the Hanging Elm, the oldest tree in New York City, the apartment had views of Washington Square Park and the Empire State Building.

 

Anna and Vito Genovese's second apartment at 29 Washington Square West had stunning views of Washington Square Park and the Empire State Building.

Anna and Vito Genovese’s second apartment at 29 Washington Square West had stunning views of Washington Square Park and the Empire State Building.

 

Greenwich Village Exile

The end of prohibition left Genovese richer and more powerful than his wildest dreams, but a Boy Scout prosecutor from Michigan sent the Mafiosi on the run for over a decade.

 

Special Prosecutor, Thomas E. Dewey, Woolworth Building, 233 Broadway, Frank Hogan, Eunice Carter, Dutch Schultz, Arthur Flegenheimer, Lucky Luciano, Prostitution, Governor Lehman, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia

In 1935, New York Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey began sweeping the streets of racketeers, winning convictions against Lucky Luciano, Waxy Gordon, Jimmy Hines, and other underworld scions.

 

29 Washington Square West Vito Genovese's Apartment / home for most of the 1930s

29 Washington Square West Vito Genovese’s Apartment / home for most of the 1930s

Following the conviction of Luciano, Genovese moved up to boss of the family and unwittingly climbed into Dewey’s crosshairs. To evade Dewey’s wrath, Genovese moved out of the special prosecutor’s jurisdiction to a sprawling estate in New Jersey. but Vito’s taste for blood became his undoing.

 

In 1937, the Ernesto “The Hawk” Rupolo admitted to murdering Ferdinand “the Shadow” Boccia at the behest of Genovese. Without missing a beat, Vito skipped town and escaped to fascist Italy, spending the Second World War as an aid to Benito Mussolini. Il Duce knighted Genovese, bestowing the rank of Commendatore upon the mobster.

 

After the Allied capture of Italy, Vito switched sides again, working for the Allies as a translator and as a spy, both covers for his real occupation: black marketeering. Agent O.C. Dicky, of the U.S. Army eventually caught up with Genovese and brought him back to New York to stand trial for the Murder Boccia in 1946, but like usual Genovese beat the rap.

 

Vito Genovese after his return to the U.S. in the 1950s.

Vito Genovese after his return to the U.S. in the 1950s.

 

The Return of Genovese

Back in Greenwich Village after a decade long exile, Vito set up shop with a bonafide business to explain his lavish lifestyle. He entered into partnership with the Erb family, owners of a dock-working firm that placed iron straps around pallets of cargo. Within a year, ERB Strapping had a virtual monopoly on iron strapping in the port of New York.

 

For a corporate headquarters, Genovese purchased the apartment building at 180 Thompson Street, where Joe Valachi, Vincent the Chin Gigante, and other well-known mobsters congregated.

 

Genovese owned this apartment building at 180 Thompson Street in Greenwich Village. It served as the headquarters for his ERB Strapping corporation, a powerhouse in the Port of New York.

Genovese owned this apartment building at 180 Thompson Street in Greenwich Village. It served as the headquarters for his ERB Strapping corporation, a powerhouse in the Port of New York.

 

But, being a megalomaniacal scoundrel, Vito wanted more. Not only did want to depose Frank Costello, the patriarch of the family. Genovese also wanted to overturn the Commission’s ban on narcotics and become the Boss of All Bosses. Vito’s newest acolyte, Vincent Gigante stuck on 1957, blasting Costello in his Central Park West apartment building.

 

However, Vito’s reign was short. In 1958, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years for narcotics trafficking. He would never see Greenwich Village, or freedom, again.

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Salvatore Maranzano, Helmsley Building, New York Central Building

The Helmsley Building is the site of the Salvatore Maranzano Murder.

230 Park Ave.

Status: Landmarked

 

By the fall of 1931, Salvatore Maranzano had clawed his way to the pinnacle of the New York underworld, one bullet riddled corpse named Giuseppe at a time. During the 1930-31 Castellammarese Mafia War, the Julius Caesar obsessed mob chieftain and his allies roved the Five Boroughs in bulletproof Cadillacs, equipped with swivel mounted belt-fed machine guns, popping Giuseppes like squirrels.

 

First to eat lead was Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello, the claw fingered capo de tutti capo of the New York Mafia, and his aide, Giuseppe Pirariano. Next to be fitted for pine overcoats by Maranzano’s torpedos were Giuseppe “Fat Joe” Pinzolo and Giuseppe “Joe the Baker” Catania, leaving behind one last living Giuseppe. Maranzano’s arch rival: the corpulent, bullet dodging, Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Massaeria.

 

GiuseppeMasseria

Giuseppe “Joe The Boss” Masseria was the last Giuseppe to feel Maranzano’s bite.

 

Walking with Vanderbilts

 

Working with the vigor of a machine age tycoon, Maranzano put the blast to last of his rivals, convinced Lucky Luciano to betray his overlord, Joe the Boss, and unified the American Mafia, like Rockefeller had monopolized oil. And like Rockefeller, Gotham’s newest kingpin needed a headquarters befitting his swollen ego, a command center that projected opulence and power and sophistication, a place where Maranzano could rub shoulders with Vanderbilts, stock brokers, and advertising execs.

 

That place was the New York Central Railroad Building at 230 Park Avenue.  A sky-scraping, neo-renaissance, 32 story spire, rising out of the center of Park Avenue, the New York Central Building (now the Helmsely Building), as it was then called, towered over Grand Central Station, giving William K. Vanderbilt II’s office a majestic panorama of the city. It would be a picturesque spot for a gangland assassination.

 

HelmsleyBuilding2Web

After unifying the the American Mafia, Salvatore Maranzano moved his offices to the New York Central Railroad Building, a place where he could rub shoulders with stock brokers and Vanderbilts.

A Vast Criminal Empire

 

From the 9th floor office of his Eagle Building Corporation, Maranzano oversaw a vast criminal empire of speakeasies, hard cider farms, and a fishing fleet that fronted for a $20 million a year immigrant smuggling network. However, a scant three months into his reign, the empire began to crumble. IRS agents were battering down the doors, the INS wanted him deported, and Lucky Luciano wanted him dead, a problem Maranzano hoped to remedy at 2:00pm, September 30, 1931.

 

Helmsley_Building

Now known as the Helmsley Building, The New York Central Building would be a picturesque location for the murder of Salvatore Maranzano.

 

Double Booking A Meeting with Death

 

It seems Maranzano had double booked a meeting with Luciano to coincide with a courtesy-call by noted machine gun artist, freelance assassin, and all around psychopath, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll. But as usual, Lucky was lucky.  A four man team of Murder Inc. shooters from Meyer Lansky’s and Dutch Shultz’s mobs arrived on Luciano’s behalf, beating Coll to the punch.

 

Salvatore Maranzano, Lucky Luciano, Mad Dog Coll, Joe the Boss Masseria,

Maranzano’s office was in the New York Central Building, 230 Park Avenue.

 

Whipping out detective’s badges, the revolver brandishing assassins howled, “We’re the police,”  before lining-up everyone in the office against a wall. Snapping open switchblades, they stormed Maranzano’s private chamber, hoping to silently eliminate the mob boss, but their target proved tougher than a billy goat.

Murder_Inc

Yelling, “We’re the police” Four Murder Inc. gunmen posing as plain clothes detectives stormed Maranzano’s office.

Maranzano Tough as an Old Billy Goat

 

A flurry of rights and lefts knocked the fedoras from the gunmen’s heads, and they let Maranzano have it, stabbing him six times and pumping five bullets into his body as Mad Dog Coll made his way up to Maranzano’s office. The gangsters scrambled down the steps, bumping into Coll as they ditched their revolvers and bloody knives, before disappearing into the crowds of Midtown. Lucky Luciano was now the new king of the New York underworld.

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