Address: 247 Mulberry Street
Status: Shoe Store http://cydwoq-ny.com/
On first glance, 247 Mulberry Street looks like nothing more than another high-end boutique in NoLita, but the cracked tiled floors of the CYDWOQ shoe store offers a glimpse back to the days when the mob ruled New York. Once a mafia nerve center entrenched in the core of Little Italy, the Ravenite Social Club hosted the Anastasia and later Gambino Crime Family for 66 years.
The Knights of Alto Social Club
The mafia social club started life in 1926 as the Knights of Alto Social Club. A regular den of thieves, patrons included Lucky Luciano, Carlo Gambino, Albert Anastasia and his chief enforcer, Aniello Dellacroce. Tzar of the Brooklyn docks, Albert Anastasia operated the Knights of Alto Social club as his Manhattan outpost and drop off point for pay offs.
Father O’Neil Dellacroce
Neil Dellacroce, an old time Murder Inc. hitman, made his bones with Anastasia in the wild days of prohibition. The mobster, who lived across the street from the Ravenite, had a slew of nicknames including Neil, Mr. Neil, O’Neil, The Polack, The Tall Guy and most interestingly: Father O’Neil on account of the time he went on a hit dressed like a Roman Catholic Priest. According to NYPD Detective Ralph Salerno:
“You looked at Dellacroce’s eyes and you could see how frightening they were…The frigid glare of a killer.” Organized Crime Detective Ralph Salerno
The 1963 Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics hearings had this to say about Mr. Neil:
“Aniello Dellacroce, he is known as O’Neil. He is in gambling, shylocking, and extortion and strong arm. He has 10 arrests, 5 convictions…he has been involved in floating dice games, gambling, shylocking. He was involved with Al Anastiasia in Cuba in gambling and dice.” –Hearings on Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics, 1963
The Ravenite Under New Management:
After Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese toppled Albert Anastasia, Gambino purchased 247 Mulberry Street, renamed the club the Ravenite and installed Dellacroce as his underboss. The relationship proved to be incredibly lucrative with Gambino providing the brains and Mr. Neil providing the trigger-men. With Dellacroce’s help Gambino inched his way into total control of the Mafia Commission. By the time of his death in 1976, the Gambino Family boasted 500 made men and thousands of associates, but with Carlo gone, a chasm threatened to rip the Gambino’s in half.
Showdown With Big Paul Castellano
On his deathbed, Don Carlo named his son in law Big Paul Castellano the new boss of the Gambino family. A schism immediately erupted between the Dellacroce’s blue collar soldiers and Castalano’s white collar followers. Big Paul had dreams of taking the Gambino’s legitimate, but Mr. Neil’s followers preferred gunplay and drug dealing.
To prevent an underworld war, Dellacroce swore fealty to Castellano and all was well in mob land. Around this time, Dellacroce would take an up-and-coming hoodlum named John Gotti under his wing. The Queens based Gotti would do much to exacerbate the friction between Mr. Neil and Big Paul. Gotti openly trafficked narcotics, despite Castellano’s ban, punishable by burial in the East River.
By the mid-1980’s the center did not hold. Dying of cancer Dellacroce, Castellano, and the rest of the Mafia Commission were facing a RICO trial with 100 year prison sentences. After the death of Dellacroce, Gotti struck, rubbing out Big Paul.
The Short Reign of Gotti
To celebrate his status as the new Gambino chieftain, Gotti picked up his headquarters, moving it from Queens to the Ravenite in 1985. With Castellano in the morgue and the other bosses imprisoned for 100 years, Gotti became the FBI’s top target. Gambino capos paraded in and out of the Ravenite to give Gotti their blessings as the new boss, providing FBI surveillance teams with a road map of the Gambino Family. However, the FBI needed more, they needed wiretaps.
The Ravenite Gets Bugged
To take Gotti down, the FBI knew it needed to penetrate the Teflon Don’s inner sanctum: The Ravenite. Jim Kallestrom’s FBI electronics wizards bugged the club in 1988 but their recordings proved to be fruitless. According to Jules Bonavolonta’s The Good Guys:
“Once it was in, however, the thing was virtually worthless. Gotti and his boys played jazz and old show tunes on a radio—constantly… ”-Jules Bonavolonta, The Good Guys
The paranoid gangsters even went as far as to install a white noise machine to further thwart FBI bugs. Bruce Mouw’s Agents listened and waited. Gotti it seemed disappeared for long stretches of time and nothing incriminating was recorded.
Perplexed, the agents questioned their informants and discovered whenever Gotti needed to discuss “real heavy stuff” he exited the Ravenite. Using a side door that entered into the apartment building’s hallway, Gotti crept to an apartment on the third floor rented by the widow of a former wiseguy.
An FBI special operations team planted wiretaps in this apartment and hit paydirt. In this inner sanctum, Gotti discussed murders, mayhem and a bevy of other crimes with his top henchmen, Sammy the Bull Gravano and Frankie Loc Locascio. The Teflon Don was convicted in 1992 of murder, illegal gambling, bribery, tax evasion and a host of other crimes. Federal Marshals later seized the building and auctioned it off to the highest bidder.