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Murder at the Metropole: The Charles Becker Herman Rosenthal Case 147 West 43rd Street

Address: 147 West 43rd Street

Status: The Casablanca Hotel

 

By the summer of 1912, every gangster, gambler and politician in New York City wanted Herman Beansie Rosenthal dead. The pro-gambler had upset the apple cart, spilled the beans and went to the press, revealing a massive web of police corruption after the coppers smashed up Beansie’s casino- a casino that was under the paid protection of NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker.

 

Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Owned by Tammany Hall powerbroker, Big Tim Sullivan,The Metropole boasted a 24 hour liquor license and a casino managed by Arnold Rothstein.

 

Murder at the Hotel Metropole:

The Becker Rosenthal Case

Just after Midnight, July 12, 1912, Rosenthal strolled into the Metropole Café, now Tony DeNapoli’s, with an arm full of newspapers plastered with headlines of his allegations against Lt. Becker. At 4 AM a gray Packard taxi roared up to the Metropole with a cargo of gunmen, coked to the gills, from the dreaded Lenox Avenue Gang.

 

Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charles-Becker

1-The Gray Murder Car which carried the gunmen assassins. 2-Herman Rosenthal, The Gambler, whose murder is charged to the New York Police System. 3- The brightly lighted streets of the murder. Rosenthal was shot under the big electric sign in the center of the picture. 4- Rhinelander Waldo, New York’s police commissioner. Mrs. Harry Vallon, Wife of the Murder Council member Frank Vallon. 6,7– Gyp the Blood and Lefty Louis, Two of the gunmen held for the murder. 8-Sam Schleps

 

There in the blinking electric lights of Times Square, Lefty Louie Rosenburg, Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Dago Frank Cirofici waited for their prey. When Rosenthal exited the Metropole, the gunmen opened fire. According Historian Mike Dash:

 

“… Investigation would eventually establish that at least three rounds were fired. The first bullet had missed its target and embedded itself at head height deep in the wooden frame of the Metropole’s front door. But the second had struck Rosenthal in the face, passing through his cheek and jaw…” Mike Dash, Satan’s Circus.

 

The murder would go on to become the crime of the century, adding yet another gritty layer to the Hotel’s gangland history.

 

Hotel-Metropole-Herman-Rosenthal-Murder-Charley-Becker-Map

A popular gangland resort and casino, the Hotel Metropole was located at 147 West 43rd Street. It was the scene of the murder of Herman “Beansie” Rosenthal in 1912.

 

Up in the Old Metropole

Located a dice roll away from the Big Street, Broadway, the Hotel Metropole opened in 1910 at 147 West 43rd Street and became a nightlife nexus of the Tenderloin district known as Satan’s Circus. The first hotel in New York City with running water in every room, a pair of pro-gamblers known as the Consindine Brothers (George and Bill), operated the hotel on behalf of Tammany Hall powerbroker Big Tim Sullivan. The Metropole became the sparkling diamond of Big Tim’s hustles. Now called the Casablanca hotel, the building is one of the most storied gangland hotels in all of Manhattan.

 

Charles Becker, Charley Becker, Herman Rosenthal, Arnold Rothstein, Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, NYPD, Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, Big Jack Zelig, Hotel Metropole, Gangs of New York, Harry Horrowitz, Satan’s Circus, Tenderloin, 147 West 43rd Street, Tony DeNapoli’s, Hotel Casablanca, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, Abe Attell, Bill Consindine, Becker Rosenthal Case, Rosenthal Murder, Fanny Brice.

Today, the Metropole is called the Hotel Casablanca.

 

The murder would leave an indelible mark on the annuals of American criminal history, even appearing in the Great Gatsby:

 

“The old Metropole,” brooded Mr. Wolfsheim gloomily.  “Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can’t forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there.”-F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

Bat Masterson, Damon Runyon and Nicky Arnstein

A human stew of Broadway characters called the Metropole home because of its 24 Hour liquor license, making the hotel’s cafe a hotspot for showgirls, gunmen, boxers, newspaper reporters and gamblers.

Wild West gunfighter turned New York newspaperman, Bat Masterson and his protégé Damon Runyon were regulars. Bat lived upstairs near noted cardsharp Nicky Arnstein, future husband of Ziegfeld Girl, Fanny Brice. Cole Porter would immortalize the wiseguys and cardsharps of the Metropole in his song, Ace in The Hole.

 

 

Arnold Rothstein’s Casino

Arnold Rothstein, the Brain of Broadway, managed Big Tim’s gambling parlor on the second floor. The opulent casino featured faro tables and roulette wheels. Some of the biggest crap games New York City history went down in the Metropole. It was also in the Metropole where Abe Attell, a former champion featherweight boxer, caught the attention of Arnold Rothstein becoming The Brain’s bagman and enforcer. Attell served Rothstein well during fixing of the 1919 World Series, insulating the gangster from criminal prosecution, serving as a go between for Rothstein and the Chicago White Soxs.

 

Arnold Rothstein

 Arnold Rothstein. the Brain of Broadway, managed the Metropole’s casino.

 

Enter Herman Rosenthal

A small time gambler with big dreams, Herman Rosenthal became a regular at the Metropole’s all night card games. With the help of Big Tim Sullivan’s bankroll, Rosenthal set up a lavish gambling den a few blocks north at 104 West Forty Fifth Street where the gambler lived with his wife Lillian. After a police raid smashed the joint, Rosenthal turned to police Lieutenant Charley Becker, cutting the corrupt police officer in on 1/5 of the house’s take. Unfortunately for Rosenthal, letters to Mayor Gaynor’s office reported the operation. The raids on the casino continued and Beansie Rosenthal went to the Newspapers to squeal.

 

The Jewish Mob:

Lefty Louie, Gyp the Blood, and Big Jack Zelig

By this point Rosenthal’s enemies led by a powerful syndicate of gamblers, gangsters, and police Lieutenant Charley Becker wanted the canary dead. With the help of Lower East Side Jewish Mobster Big Jack Zelig, a contract was placed on Rosenthal’s head to be carried out by Lenox Avenue Gang members Lefty Louie and Gyp the Blood. According to Herbert Asbury:

 

“Gyp the Blood was a sheriff and gorilla at the cheap dances of the East Side…He possessed extraordinary strength, and frequently boasted that he could break a man’s back by bending him over his knee.”-Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York

 

The triggermen struck on July 12, 1912 and all of New York reverberated in the wake.

 

Lefty Louie gyp the blood

Two eastside gunmen (seated), Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horrowitz and Lefty Louie Rosenburg, were sentenced to death for the slaying of Herman Rosenthal.

 

The Chair For Charley Becker

Lt. Becker and the Lenox Avenue gang were found guilty of the crime and were sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing. The Metropole Hotel still stands today and is known as the Hotel Casablanca.

 Charles BeckerNYPD officer Charles Becker was sentenced to death for the crime.

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Mafia, Salvatore Luciana, Giuseppe Morello, Clutch Hand Morello, Johnny Dio, Jimmy Doyle, James Pulmeri, Albert Marinelli, Jimmy Kelly, Giovanni DeSalvio, John Gotti, Lupo The Wolf, Petto the Ox, The Barrel Murder, Black Hand, Joe Petrosino, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Ciro Terranova, Joe Masseria, Crazy Joe Gallo, Salvatore Toto D’Aquila, Aniello Dellacroce, NYPD, 240 Centre Street, 8 Prince Street, 225 Lafayette Street, 129 Mulberry, 91 Elizabeth Street, 385 Broome Street, 164 Mulberry, 247 Mulberry Street, 232 Mulberry Street, Umberto’s Clam House, Ravenite Social Club, Whisky Curb, Bootleggers Curb, Café Roma, Lieutenant Joe Petrosino Square, Italian Squad,

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Little Italy Mafia Walking Tour Map

 

Little more than a 3-block tourist trap, New York’s Little Italy is on the verge of extinction. With Chinatown closing in from the east and SoHo gobbling up its southern real estate, only the section of Mulberry Street between Broom and Canal remain visibly Italian. Gone too is the dreaded presence of the Mafia which was once inextricably woven into the fabric of daily life. This Mafia walking tour will take you back to the days when mobsters, rather than hipsters, ruled the streets of Little Italy.

 

1 Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello’s Spaghetti Restaurant

Address: 8 Prince Street

Status: Standing

Giuseppe-Morello-8-Prince-Street

Giuseppe Morello’s spaghetti parlor was the scene of the brutal Barrel Murder

 

He was the patriarch of the first America Crime Family. A Sicilian bandit with a deformed right hand, Giuseppe Morello earned his nickname “the Clutch Hand” from his twisted talon. The undisputed boss of Manhattan’s uptown and downtown Italian districts, Morello led a vicious band of old world cutthroats from a spaghetti parlor at 8 Prince Street. Morello’s gang included his half brother Ciro Terranova, the self styled “Artichoke King”, his second in command and brother-in-law Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta, his chief enforcer Tomaso Petto the Ox, and a multitude of kinfolk.

 

Murder, robbery and Black Hand extortion, the Mafiosi did it all, but counterfeiting was their art, a passion that would lead to a gristly murder at 8 Prince Street. On April 14, 1903, Benedetto Madonia, one of The Clutch Hand’s counterfeiters, was stabbed to death, stuffed into a barrel and unceremoniously dumped on East 11th Street as a gangland message. However, the message proved to be too strong and both the Secret Service and Joseph Petrosino, a rising star in the NYPD, would be on Morello’s trail, ultimately bringing about his downfall.

 

 

2 Lupo The Wolf’s Import Market

Address: 9 Prince Street

Status: Standing

 

As ferocious as his namesake, Lupo The Wolf was a terrorist long before the word became fashionable. Through violence, bombings, Black Hand letters and murder, he extorted everyone and everything in turn-of-the-century Little Italy. Related by marriage to Clutch Hand Morello, Lupo became head of Downtown Little Italy for the Italian Harlem based Morello. Lupo operated one of many grocery stores he owned from 9 Prince Street.

 

 

3 Barrel Murder Arrest

Address: Bowery and Delancy Street

 

Hoping to smash Morello’s counterfeiting ring and solve the Barrel Murder, the Secret Service and Joe Petrosino pounced on Petto the Ox and Giuseppe Morello on the corner of Bowery and Delancey Street. The Mafiosi were armed to the teeth with daggers and licensed revolvers. Unfortunately, the charges did not stick to Morello, but a pawn ticket for Benedetto Madonia’s watch linked Petto the Ox to the Barrel Murder. The mafia enforcer disappeared while on bail and was never imprisoned for the crime.

 

 

4 Joe Petrosino Square

Kenmare and Spring Street

Status: NYC Park

Joe Petrosino Square

When it came to New York firsts, Lt. Joseph Petrosino could claim many. He was the NYPD’s first Italian speaking officer, the first Italian American on the Force to obtain the rank of lieutenant, and the first, and only, NYPD officer killed on foreign soil. The city built this park on Kenmare and Spring Street to honor him in 1987.

 

To combat the rise of Italian Black Hand crimes, the city formed the Italian squad with Petrosino at its helm. In 1909, Petrosino traveled to Sicily in search of a secret society of criminals infiltrating America and Vito Cascioferro, the powerbroker behind the Morello Crime Family. The trip would be Petrosino’s undoing. Mafia assassins put the Police Lieutenant on the spot, assassinating him on the streets of Palermo. (Click to read more about Joe Petrosino)

 

5 Salvatore Toto D’Aquila’s Home

Address: 91 Elizabeth Street

Status: Standing

 

Toto-D'Aquila

1920s New York Boss of Bosses, Toto D’Aquila’s home.

After Giuseppe Morello’s conviction for counterfeiting in 1909, the Clutch Hand’s remaining brothers retreated to 107th Street in Italian Harlem, allowing Salvatore Toto D’Aquila to become the ruler of Downtown Little Italy, and the Italian Mafia’s boss of bosses in New York. By the time of Prohibition, D’Aquila became quite wealthy despite his lowly tenement home at 91 Elizabeth Street. His encroachments on Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria’s open-air liquor markets on Kenmare, Broom and Grand Streets would erupt into all out war in 1920.

 

 

6 Umberto’s Clam House, the Murder of Crazy Joe Gallo

Address: 129 Mulberry

Status: Moved

http://www.umbertosclamhouse.com/

 

As crazy as they came, Joe Gallo earned a reputation for shaking up the mob. With his Red Hook Brooklyn based brothers, Larry and Albert, Gallo and his gang took on a succession of bosses for control of the Profachi and later Colombo Crime Family.

On April 7, 1972, Gallo, his family and Mafia crew walked into Umberto’s Clam House, a well-known mafia restaurant owned by Matty the Horse Ianniello, to celebrate Gallo’s birthday, a completely insane move. The mob wanted Gallo dead for the slaying of Joseph Colombo at an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally at Columbus Circle.

At 4:30 a.m. four gunmen slipped into Umberto’s back door and violated a mafia ban on brazenly killing gangsters on the streets of little Italy. Bullets slammed into Gallo who limped out and collapsed on the street. Gallo’s gang opened fire on the escaping hitmen. Bullet pockmarks can still be found at Graziano’s funeral home across the street. Gallo’s murder remains unsolved.

 

 

7 Joe The Boss Masseria’s Bootleggers Curb

Address: Kenmare, Broom and Grand Street

 

By some quirk of geography, Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria, a small time hood and recent mafia import, struck prohibition gold. His small gang ran the streets of Kenmare, Broom and Grand in the shadow of NYPD Headquarters. For whatever the reason, these streets became know as the Whisky Curb or Bootleggers Curb, an open air booze market where speakeasies and saloons came to trade bottles of pre-prohibition hooch.

 

A quick hand with a gat and even quicker feet made the portly Masseria’s reputation as a supernatural Mafiosi. Masseria grew incredibly wealthy and Toto D’aquila wanted a cut. Bootleggers Curb soon became shootout central. Dodging bullets and leading shootouts, Masseria led a prohibition gang war against New York’s Boss of Bosses Toto D’Aquila for control of Little Italy.

 

After his release from prison in 1920, Giuseppe “the Clutch Hand” Morello joined forces with Joe Masseria against Toto Aquila. With the help a new recruit named Charley Lucky Luciano and his Jewish Mob friends, Toto Aquilia was bumped off in 1928.

 

 

8 NYPD Headquarters, The Central Office

Address: 240 Centre Street

Status: Landmark (Luxury Condos)

Infamous-New-York-240-Centre-Street-Old-Police-Headquarters

Most mobsters of any consequence have spent at least one overnight in the basement of 240 Centre Street. From 1909 to 1973 this beaux-arts masterpiece served as NYPD Headquarters, the nerve center of the New York Police Department. Click to learn more about Old NYPD Headquarters.

 

 

9 Lucky Luciano Rats

Address: 164 Mulberry

Status: Standing

 

Salvatore Luciana kept his fingers in many pies. Gambling, bootlegging, prostitution and murder for hire all kept him wealthy, but Lucky wanted more. Under the direction of his mentor Arnold Rothstein, Charley Luciano turned to narcotics, and it proved to be a mistake. By 1923, the mobster was the darling of prohibition high society, and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics collared Lucky with a pocket full of dope. In exchange for his freedom, Luciano revealed the location of a trunk of Heroin stashed in the basement of 164 Mulberry Street. The arrest tarnished Lucky’s reputation among Manhattan’s socialites, inspiring him to throw the biggest party of the decade.

 

 

10 Café Roma

385 Broome Street

Status: Open for Business

 

Cafe-Roma

The Westies kidnapped the owner of Cafe Roma, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi

Back in the 1970s, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi did more than make cannoli at the Café Roma. The Genovese capo ran the policy games for Fat Tony Salerno from this downtown café, making Zicardi a target for opportunistic gangsters like the Irish Westies. In the 1977 under the orders of Hells Kitchen’s gang lord Mickey Spillane, the Westies put the snatch on Zicardi. Salerno begrudgingly paid the $100,000 ransom to the Irish Mob, but Zicardi was never seen again. Because of the kidnapping and construction projects on the Westside, all out war broke out between the Irish and Italian mobs resulting in Spillane’s murder and the death of three of his lieutenants.

 

11 John DeSalvio Playground or Jimmy Kelly Park

Address: Spring and Mulberry Street

Status: NYC Park

 

An original gangster who predated the coming of the Mafia, Jimmy Kelly knew all of the angles. His real name was Giovanni DeSalvio, but the middleweight boxer changed his name to Kelly to make inroads in the Irish controlled boxing world of turn-of-the-century New York. However, Kelly failed to make it as a pro-boxer and put his knuckles to work at Mike Salter’s Pelham café protecting the club’s singing waiter Irving Berlin (click to read the story). Under Salter’s wing, Kelly took up politics and full time gangsterism. When Salter fled the country for election fraud, Kelly took his place as a Tammany ward heeler running into innumerable gang wars with hunchback mobster Humpty Jackson. Click to read more about Humpty Jackson.

 

11 Johnny Dio and Al Marinelli’s Headquarters

Address: 225 Lafayette

Status: Luxury Condos

225-Layafette

In the 1920s, 225 Lafayette was a hub of Mafia activity.

For much of the history of New York City, the criminals worked for Tammany hall, not the other way around, but with the coming of the Mafia and prohibition that was about to change. Nowhere else in the city was the intertwining of crime and politics more apparent than 225 Lafayette Street. Built in 1909 in the heart of Little Italy to house the East River Savings Bank, 225 quickly evolved into a mafia hub.

 

A close personal friend of Lucky Luciano, Albert Marinelli set up the political headquarters of his Al Marinelli Association at 225 Layafette. With the help of Luciano’s gunmen, Marinelli unseated Tammany’s Irish incumbent to become the first elected Italian-American Distract Leader in the city. Luciano and Marinelli were so chummy that they shared a room at the 1932 Democratic Convention. The politician made a fortune with Luciano, which attracted the attention of Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey.

 

Dewey later accused Marinelli of voter fraud and corruption. Dewy explained:

“He has a luxurious estate surrounded by an iron fence on Lake Ronkonkoma, way out on long island. From his several motorcars he chooses to drive a Lincoln limousine. His Japanese butler, Togo, serves him well.” Thomas Dewey

With the spotlight on him, Marinelli stepped down, making way for John DeSalvio to become the 2nd Assembly District Leader.

 

On another floor of 225 Layafette, Jimmy Doyle Pulmeri and his nephew Johnny Dio Dioguardi set up their Five Boroughs Trucking Service Association, a thinly veiled shakedown scheme. Their strong arm racketeering tactics eventually won control of all Garment Center trucking. Business was brisk. So brisk that Doyle and his partner Dominick Didato shot each other in their offices. Neither man could explain to police why their legally licensed revolvers simultaneously malfunctioned. Didato was found dead days later. After the Castellmarese Mafia war, Dio and Doyle joined the Gaetano Reina and later Lucchese Crime Family. (Click to read more about Jimmy Doyle) Like everything else in NYC, the building has been converted to luxury condos.

 

13 Aniello Dellacroce’s Apartment

Address: 232 Mulberry Street

Status: Standing

 

A stone cold killer and founding member of Murder Inc., Aniello Dellacroce served as Albert Anastasia’s murderous protégée and future Gambino Underboss. Dellacrose maintained a life long address at this tenement at 232 Mulberry Street across the street from his headquarters, The Ravenite.

 

 

14 John Gotti’s Bunker: The Ravenite Social Club:

Address: 247 Mulberry Street

Status: Shoe Store

 

ravenite

John Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club is now a shoe store.

There is no better place to conclude a Mafia walking tour of Little Italy than the Ravenite Social Club at 247 Mulberry. Buried in the heart of historic little Italy, the once bricked up, fortified storefront encapsulated the entire history of the mafia in New York. The club started life as a mob joint in 1926 as the Knights of Alto Social Club. Regular patrons included Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia. After Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese toppled Anastasia, Gambino purchased the building, renamed the club the Ravenite, and installed Dellacroce his underboss.

 

Housed within the wall’s of today’s CYDQOG Shoe Store (the Ravenite’s original floors remain in the store), Dellacroce would take an up-and-coming hoodlum named John Gotti under his wing. After years of underworld dealings, Dellacroce was terminally ill and on trial for being a member of the Mafia Commission.

 

After the death of Dellacroce, John Gotti rubbed out family boss Paul Castalano, took over the Ravenite and installed himself as boss of the Gambino Family. FBI electronics wizards eventually bugged the club and recorded hours of incriminating evidence. Gotti 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. Click to read a longer post on the Ravenite Social Club.

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Joe Petrosino Square

Location: Corner of Lafayette and Kenmare streets
Status: NYC Park

Crammed into a small triangular plot of land in SoHo, Lieutenant Joe Petrosino Square pays homage to one of the most intrepid cops in NYPD History. In the course of his career, Petrosino would go from street sweeper to NYPD Lieutenant only to be cut down by assassin’s bullets on the streets of Palermo.

 

Giuseppe Morello, Joe Petrosino, Italian Squad, Mafia, NYPD, New York Police Department, Lupo the Wolf, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Vito Cascioferro, The Barrel Murder, The Clutch Hand, Peter Morello, Black Hand

Named for NYPD detective Lieutenant Joe Perosino, Petrosino square honors the famed detective cut down by mafia assassins on the streets of Palermo. He traveled to Sicily to investigate the Black Hand.

 

Crime Sweeper: The White Wings

Born Giuseppe Petrosino in 1860, the detective got his start with the New York Police Department in an unusual way, sweeping streets. In those days, street cleaners or whitewings, as they were known, fell under the command of the New York’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Petrosino scrubbed the bloody streets of the tenderloin district, a rowdy neighborhood populated by brothels and casinos. The raucous quarter was commanded by police inspector Alexander “Clubber” Williams, a famous brawler who earned his nickname as a beat cop in the Five Points. Clubber once bragged:

 

“There is more law in the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.”

 

Sensing Petrosino’s linguistic skills, Williams put the Italian street sweeper to work as a special assistant in tenderloin cases involving Italians. At age of 23, the 5’7” Petrosino became the shortest patrolman on the force, a favor that came courtesy of Williams, who forced the Police Board to wave the height regulations.

 

Giuseppe Morello, Joe Petrosino, Italian Squad, Mafia, NYPD, New York Police Department, Lupo the Wolf, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Vito Cascioferro, The Barrel Murder, The Clutch Hand, Peter Morello, Alexander Clubber Williams, Black Hand

Alexander Clubber William brought the young Petrosino into the NYPD to help with Italian crimes.

 

On the Trail of The Back Hand

By 1890, Petrosino moved up to the investigation section, policing the crime wave sweeping little Italy. Dubbed the Black Hand or La Mana Nero by the papers because of the distinct extortion letters signed with a black handprint, Black Hand gangsters specialized in kidnapping, extortion and bombings.

The newspapers failed to realize that the Black Hand was actually a myth dreamed up by a New York Tribune reporter. The papers could not have imagined that the real culprit behind these crimes was a secret criminal society known as the Mafia, a term unknown at the time.

 

Giuseppe Morello, Joe Petrosino, Italian Squad, Mafia, NYPD, New York Police Department, Lupo the Wolf, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Vito Cascioferro, The Barrel Murder, The Clutch Hand, Peter Morello, Alexander Clubber Williams, Black Hand

Know as the Black Hand for their distinctive extortion notes often featuring black hand prints, the criminal organization often served as a front for mafia activities.

 

Prince of the Black Hand:

Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello:

 

Ruled by a cutthroat mustachioed scoundrel with a deformed hand, Giuseppe “Peter” Morello ruled New York’s first crime family, an organization that would one day be absorbed by Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese. Morello made his bones in the old country as an assassin, counterfeiter and kidnapper before fleeing to America to avoid murder charges.

 

Giuseppe Morello, Joe Petrosino, Italian Squad, Mafia, NYPD, New York Police Department, Lupo the Wolf, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Vito Cascioferro, The Barrel Murder, The Clutch Hand, Peter Morello, Alexander Clubber Williams, Black Hand, The Clutching Hand Morello,

Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello, leader of America’s first Mafia family.

 

Petrosino and Teddy Roosevelt

While Morello sailed across the Atlantic, Petrosino carved out a name for himself in the NYPD. By 1890, he moved up to the investigation section. A master of disguise, the young sleuth possessed an array of costumes.

Petrosino’s antics amused Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt and the pair became instant friends. A shrewd politician, Roosevelt realized that the influx of Italians would further his political base if he had his own inside man. For this reason, Teddy promoted Petrosino to Sergeant Detective, the first Italian-American to attain that rank.

 

Uncovering the Mafia: The Italian Squad

By 1903, there were more Italians in New York than there were in Rome. Collectively the Italian population was 1/4 of the entire city, however, only eleven police officers spoke Italian.

After a rash of tenement bombings, the NYPD formed the Italian Squad. The five-man band included Maurise Bonil, Peter Dondero, George Silva, John Lagomarsini, and Ugo Cassidi. The great grandfather of the NYPD Bomb Squad, the Italian Squad specialized in bomb disposal.

 

Giuseppe Morello, Joe Petrosino, Italian Squad, Mafia, NYPD, New York Police Department, Lupo the Wolf, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Vito Cascioferro, The Barrel Murder, The Clutch Hand, Peter Morello, Alexander Clubber Williams, Black Hand, The Clutching Hand Morello, Joseph Petrosino

Joseph Petrosino leader of the New York Police Department’s Italian Squad.

 

Meanwhile, it seemed that every Italian thug with a scrap of paper and a pen was turning to Black Hand extortion while true Mafioso, like Giuseppe Morello, worked to solidify their criminal empires. Upon arriving in America, Morello enlisted the help of a savage enforcer, Ignacio Lupo “the Wolf”, and Don Vito Cascioferro, an unusual Mafioso by all accounts. Ferro started life as an anarchist who took part in uprisings, protests, and political assassinations in Sicily and later served as president of the Fasci of Bisaquino.

 

The Death of Joe Petrosino

Petrosino quickly became the bane of the Morello Crime Family. After Cracking the Barrel Murder, Pertrosino issued an arrest warrant for Cascioferro, who fled to Sicily. In 1909, Lt. Petrosino traveled over 4,000 miles to Palermo to uncover the secrets of the Mafia. It would be the detective’s undoing. Cascioferro’s assassins caught up with Petrosino murdering him on the Piazza Marina.

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Infamous-New-York-240-Centre-Street-Old-Police-Headquarters

Location: 240 Centre Street

Status: Landmarked (click for landmark report)

 

For over sixty-four years, police officers called it the big white castle, the nerve center of the nation’s largest and most sophisticated police department. Over the years, the New York City Police Department’s Centre Street headquarters would combat mobsters, bootleggers, jewel thieves and serial killers.

 

Built by the architectural firm: Hoppin, Koen and Huntington for approximately $750,000, Old Police Headquarters, or the Central Office as it was once called, represents one of the most beautiful Beaux-Arts masterpieces Manhattan has to offer.

 

The architect, Francis Hoppin stated:

“The building was not intended to look like a police station, but was inspired by the dignity of City Hall, the handsomest building on Manhattan Island… designed to impress both officer and prisoner…with the majesty of the law.”

 

Old NYPD Headquarters Infamous New York 240 Centre Street Police Building

The New York City Police Department headquarters stood at 240 Centre Street from 1909 to 1973.

 

Built between 1905 and 1909 on a wedge shaped parcel of land bounded by Grand, Centre and Broome Streets where the old Centre Market had stood since 1817, the new Headquarters was needed following the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898, when the police force quadrupled in size.

 

240 Centre Street Old Police Headquarters Infamous New York 2

 

On midnight November 29, 1909, Police Commissioner William F. Baker inaugurated New York’s era of scientific policing when telephone switchboards at the old police headquarters at 300 Mulberry were simultaneously shut down and transferred to the new Central Office.

 

240 Centre Street Old Police Headquarters Infamous New York

 

On the first floor of 240 Centre Street, visitors would find an ornate reception room. To the left of reception, guests could find the Chief Inspector’s office, the Bureau of Information and the Boiler Squad, a NYPD unit responsible for testing steam heaters in buildings throughout the city.

 

NYPD, Old Police Building, 240 Centre Street, Police Headquarters

The old New York Police Department headquarters was located at 240 Centre Street.

To the right of the reception room, the chief detective’s office could be found next to the line up room for criminal suspects, the homicide room and Lt. Giuseppe “Joseph” Petrosino’s famed Italian Squad.

 

The Italian Squad

 

Formed to investigate the growing threat of a criminal organization known as the Black Hand, Lt. Petrosino and his Italian speaking squad uncovered the existence of a secret criminal society known as the Mafia lurking in the shadows of New York’s Little Italy. Assassinated while investigating the Mafia in Sicily, Petrosino never had the chance to see the new Police Headquarters.

 

Michael Fiaschetti 2 Italian Squad Infamous New York

After the assassination of Joseph Petrosino, Michael Fiaschetti took command of the Italian Squad at 240 Centre Street.

Petrosino’s second in command, Michel Fiaschetti ran the Italian squad from 240 Centre street well into prohibition when the unit was disbanded. In addition to combating the Mafia, the Italian squad developed the nation’s first bomb squad to defuse bombs planted to extort Italian shopkeepers.

 

On the Second floor of Police Headquarters was the Commissioner’s office and the Bureau for Theatrical Licenses. On June 10, 1970, a bomb planted by the Weathermen exploded in a bathroom on the floor, blowing out windows and injuring eight people. (Click to read the story)

 

Another flight up was the Chief Clerk’s offices and a police science library, a room stocked with the most up to date texts on investigation, forensics and criminal identification.

 

The Police Academy

 

Housed on the fourth floor, the City’s Police Academy operated at 240 Centre street until it moved to 400 Broome Street in 1928. The facilities included a gym, a drill room, heavy bags and a running track.

 

The NYPD’s Nerve Center

 

The fifth floor existed as the Police Department’s nerve center, housing a sophisticated switchboard and dispatch system for the entire city. According to the New York Evening Post:

 

“The Switchboard is the most complete and costliest in the world, and every known improvement in telephones will be found there.” —New York Evening Post

 

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Equipped with the latest technology of its time, the switchboard room was located on the 5th floor of 240 Centre Street.

 

Nearby in the Bertillon room, officers photographed and meticulously measured and recorded different parts and components of known criminals’ bodies. Their findings were then printed on 5”X3” index cards, an early system of criminal identification, and sent to the Old Police Headquarters’ Rouges Gallery. Fingerprinting eventually replaced the Bertillon system.

 

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The Rouges Gallery in 240 Centre Street. After criminal identification cards were created, the documents were stored here.

Secrets Beneath 240 Centre Street

 

The cellar boasted a pistol shooting range, the property clerk, 72 cells for high profile Detective Bureau prisoners, and most notably a secret tunnel. During prohibition, officers went to great lengths to get their drink on, digging a tunnel under Centre Street to O’Neill’s tavern so that the coppers could drink in uniform. Parts of the tunnel live on today as a wine cellar.

 

Gun Dealer’s Row

 

Almost overnight, gunsmiths and gun dealers sprouted up behind headquarters on Centre Market Place where officers could buy guns, billy clubs and uniforms. Famous gun dealers such as John Jovino and Frank Lava operated here for many years. According to the Village Voice:

 

“At one time, six gunsmiths—all Italian—operated out of storefronts along that block, A few yards down Broom Street, a single German plied the trade”—The Village Voice (click to read the article)

 

The Police Department officially closed 240 Centre Street in 1973, moving headquarters to 1 Police Plaza. Rather than relocating the historic records into an archive, the department unceremoniously dumped a half-century worth of police records into the East River. Headquarters was later converted into a luxury apartment building named the Old Police Building.

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Special Prosecutor, Thomas E. Dewey, Woolworth Building, 233 Broadway, Frank Hogan, Eunice Carter, Dutch Schultz, Arthur Flegenheimer, Lucky Luciano, Prostitution,

Location: 233 Broadway

Status: Landmarked 

 

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.

 

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

Dewey’s Office was located on the 14th floor of the Woolworth Building where he would successfully prosecute Lucky Luciano.

 

Fort Dewey

 

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.

 

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

Dewey’s Office was located on the 14th floor of the Woolworth Building where he would successfully prosecute Lucky Luciano.

 

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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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

Plainclothes detectives patrolled the Woolworth Building’s lobby 24/7 to ferret out gangster spies.

 

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.

 

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

After a brilliant surprise raid on Lucky Luciano’s brothels, these elevator banks were used to shuttle hundreds of prostitutes up to the 14th floor.

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Check out these amazing photos of the NYPD in gritty 1970s New York.

http://www.vintag.es/2013/08/pictures-of-daily-life-of-new-york.html

 

 

Pictures of Life of the New York Police Department in the 1970's (15)Pictures of Life of the New York Police Department in the 1970's (1)

 

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