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Archive for the ‘Vincent “The Chin” Gigante’ Category

Addresses:

225 Sullivan Street- Mother’s apartment

208 Sullivan Street-Triangle Civic Improvement Association

67 East 77th Street Just off Park Avenue- Townhouse

Status: All Standing

 

Was he mentally ill or a criminal mastermind?  A brain damaged ex-pug, or the leader of the Genovese Crime Family? These questions dominated New York’s tabloids for much of 1990s. Despite the notoriety, for much of his life of crime Vincent “the Chin” Gigante lived with his dear old ma, Yolanda, at 225 Sullivan Street in the heart of Greenwich Village, a place the FBI once called:

“One of the most impregnable mob strongholds in the country” The New York Times, 1988

Born in 1928 in the slums of Greenwich Village to a watchmaker and a seamstress, Gigante came up from the streets swinging. He Graduated from P.S. 3 elementary school, but dropped out of Textile High in 9th grade to make his way in the world as a boxer.

Vito Genovese and his Greenwich Village henchmen: Tony Bender Strollo and Tommy Eboli ruled Chin’s universe. Genovese’s bodyguard and top hitman, Eboli loved boxing in big way, and he brought the talented Gigante under his wing, managing both his fight career and his crime career.

 

Vincent-Gigante's-Apartment

The Gigante family tenement. FBI agents once found Vincent here standing in the shower under an open umbrella.

Becoming Vinny the Chin

Gigante boxed all over New York, in club fights and in the backs of bars. Like an actor waiting tables at night, Gigante moonlighted as mafia enforcer of Beat Generation Greenwich Village, amassing arrests for illegal guns, theft, arson and more.

From there, Vincent, whose mother called him Vincenzo, fought bouts in St. Nick’s Arena and Madison Square Garden transforming his ma’s nickname into a gangland moniker, The Chin. Veteran boxing manager, Lou Duva would reminisce in Jacobs Beach, The Mob, The Garden & The Golden Age of Boxing:

“When you boxed in the Garden, you got the recognition. You’d arrived as a fighter.”Lou Duva

With a record of 20 wins and 4 losses, what caused the Chin to quit the fights and become a full time mobster? (Click to see Gigante’s Boxing Record) Perhaps Gigante got sick of getting his brains knocked in for peanuts, or was there something else?

 

The Return of Vito Genovese

Genovese, returned from his self-imposed exile in fascist Italy during WWII, had plans for the young boxer who would become a mafia superstar serving as Genovese’s chauffeur, bodyguard and top triggerman.

 

Vincent-the-Chin-Gigante-Apartment,-Triangle-Civic-Club-Mafia-Map

For most of his life, Vincent Gigante lived at 225 Sullivan Street with his Ma, Yolanda. His headquarters, the Triangle Civic Association was across the street at 208 Sullivan Street.

 

Vito Genovese vs. Frank Costello

With Genovese’s return, a confrontation loomed with Frank Costello, the reigning boss of the Luciano Crime Family. Gigante was tasked with rubbing out the boss to make way for Genovese. The ex-boxer took to an underworld shooting range beneath the streets of Greenwich Village to ready his trigger finger.

On May 2nd, 1957 the Chin struck, but the botched the job, grazing Costello. However, the flesh wound paid off and Costello retired from the rackets (Click to read the full story).

 

1957, A Bad Year for the Mob, Apalachin and More

Despite the successful takeover of the Luciano Family,  it would be a bad year Gigante. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics(FBN) had The Chin and Genovese’s global narcotics operation in their sites. On November 11, 1957, Apalachin put the mob on prime-time television and in 1958 the FBN convicted Genovese and Gigante for narcotics trafficking. Genovese would never walk the streets again.

 

The Odd Father

Gigante clearly did not enjoy prison. After his release he became increasingly paranoid, secretive and reclusive. By the late 1970s, he regularly checked into mental institutions and wandered the streets of the Village in slippers and a bathrobe. According to Selwyn Raab, author of the Five Families,

“Gigante’s bizarre behavior was also exhibited in his mother’s fourth-floor apartment. One day, agent Pat Marshall and Pat Collins knocked on Yolanda Gigante’s apartment with a subpoena for her son. Chin was standing in the bathtub, under a closed shower head, wearing a bathrobe. He had an open umbrella over his head…”Selwyn Raab, The Five Families

 

The Triangle Civic Association

Despite the crazy act, Gigante ruled over the crime family, positioning East Harlem Mafia kingpin, Fat Tony Salerno, as a front boss and buffer.  Chin held court across the street from his mother’s apartment at The Triangle Civic Association, 208 Sullivan Street. The nondescript club had little more than a bar and an espresso machine but it served as a low profile command center, which he had swept for bugs regularly.

 

Triangle-Civic-Association-

Once a hub of gangland intrigue, Vincent Gigante’s Triangle Civic Association is now a tea shop.

 

The FBI bought the crazy act but most mobsters knew better. Sammy the Bull Gravano later reminisced to Peter Maas,

 

“But it was clear as a bell that he was the boss. So why was he doing his nut act? Sometimes I would think that he really was crazy and took medication when he had to be sane.” Sammy the Bull Gravano, Underboss.

 

 

VIncent-Gigante's-Townhouse

Vincent the Chin Gigante’s posh townhouse just off of Park Avenue.

 

 

Chin’s Townhouse

By the 1980s, Chin grew even more eccentric. He had two separate families, and a wife and a mistress both named Olympia. One family lived in Old Tappan New Jersey and the other in a posh Upper East Side townhouse, just off Park Avenue, located at 67 East 77th Street. The luxurious white bricked home was purchased by record executive Morris Levy in 1983 for $490,000 and gifted to Gigante’s mistress for a mere $16,000.

Despite the 20 year crazy act, the FBI eventually caught up with the Chin, convicting him of racketeering in 1997. He would die in the same penitentiary as his mentor Genovese.

Vincent-Gigante's-Town-House-Infamous-New-York

Gigante’s townhouse was located at 67 East 77th Street.

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Frank Costello, Majestic Apartments, 115 Central Park West

Frank Costello Lived Here at the Majestic Apartments.

Location: 115 Central Park West, The Majestic Apartments

Status: Landmarked 

 

He had a controlling interest in every slot machine from New York to New Orleans. He ran rum, bootlegged scotch, and controlled the appointments of Supreme Court judges and Tammany Hall politicians. He was a kingmaker, the puppeteer who made Manhattan dance, but more than anything else, Frank Costello wanted to be a legitimate businessman; and by the time the Great Depression hit, Uncle Frank, as his mob pals called him, was ready to buy his way into high society.

 

For his bid for legitimacy, he targeted the newly constructed 32 story Majestic Apartments, a twin towered, brick and steel framed art deco masterpiece. Located at 115 Central Park West across the street from the famous Dakota, nothing in the city was more modern and posh than the Majestic.

 

A Majestic View

 

For their home, Costello and his wife, Loretta Geigerman, selected apartment 18F, a nine room, two bedroom, two bathroom, corner apartment facing Central Park, which they rented for $3,900 a month (the apartment recently sold for $5,304,000).

 

The view from Frank Costello's apartment was majestic.

The view from Frank Costello’s apartment was majestic.

 

Because of the building’s unique cantilevered construction, there were no columns to block Costello’s view of the park and the breathtaking full morning sunlight that the mobster rarely tasted during his youth in the slums of East Harlem.

 

Frank Costello lived in apartment 18F in the Majestic Apartments. Vincent "Chin" Gigante attempted to assassinate him in the lobby in 1957.

Frank Costello lived in apartment 18F in the Majestic Apartments. Vincent “Chin” Gigante attempted to assassinate him in the lobby in 1957.

 

Nobody Loses in Frank Costello’s House

 

The couple hired James Mont, the mob’s top interior decorator, to deck the apartment out in mafia glitz. Mont hung a Howard Chandler Christy “Christy Girl” oil painting over the fireplace. Next, he placed a gold plated grand piano in the living room and ringed it with slot machines manufactured by Costello’s True Mint Novelty Company, a firm that reportedly earned the mob mogul $500,000 a day. But the one-armed bandits in Costello’s lavish pad had a unique twist: they were rigged for perpetual jackpots. Costello was known to say to guests such as publisher Generoso Pope Jr. and future New York Mayor Bill O’Dwyer,

 

 What do you think I am, a punk? Nobody loses in my house. 

 

Fred Astaire, Walter Winchell, and Milton Berle

 

Over the years, Costello would integrate himself in the parade of rich and famous neighbors like: the diamond merchant: Jacob Baumgold, shoe magnate: Andrew Geller, Fred Astaire, Milton Berle, Zero Mostel, and his arch rival—newspaper reporter Walter Winchell. Whenever he needed a cup of sugar, Costello could visit his pal Bugsy Siegal downstairs.

From this majestic incubator, Costello’s power would only grow. In 1936, Lucky Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years for compulsory prostitution. A year later Vito Genovese fled to Italy fearing murder charges, leaving Frank Costello boss of the Luciano Crime Family.

 

King of New York

 

For the undisputed king of Manhattan nightlife, Costello was an early riser. Waking at 9:00 am every morning, his daily ritual included a trip to the Waldorf Astoria Barber Shop for a shine, shave, and a manicure followed by lunch at the Madison Hotel. On Thursdays he hit the baths in the subbasement of the Biltmore Hotel for “the works”, sauna, steam room and a massage.

 

Frank Costello Majestic Apartments

 

He saw a psychoanalyst once a week and became a major donor to the Salvation Army, turning over the Copacabana night club for their holiday fundraisers. Wire taps placed on Costello’s home phone by D.A. Frank Hogan recorded New York supreme Court Justice Thomas Aurelio pledging his undying loyalty to the mob boss.

 

The Kefauver Commission

Just as the former bootlegger was ready to climb into the seat of respectability, things began to unravel. In 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver’s travelling committee rolled into town and hauled Costello in front of television cameras, forcing Costello to answer several difficult questions such as if he kept $50,000 in a safe in his apartment. Costello replied,

 

I believe I had a little strongbox… I keep forty-fifty thousand.

 

Refusing to answer anymore questions, the Prime Minister of the Underworld stormed out and was slapped with contempt of court and a 14 month prison sentence. Soon the IRS was on his tail, and INS wanted to revoke his citizenship.

 

The Return of Vito Genovesse

When Costello returned from prison, he had even more problems. Vito Genovese had returned from Italy, gunning for Uncle Frank. On the evening of May 2nd, 1957, Genovese struck. As Costello walked into the Majestic’s zinc and marble lobby, Genovese’s chief bully-boy, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, pulled a revolver and screamed:

 

This is for you Frank.

 

Just as Gigante fired a single round, Costello spun around, and because of some quirk of physics, geometry, and the hand of God almighty, the bullet grazed Costello’s scalp, riding around the rim of his borsalino hat. The attack left Costello shaken. He quickly sued for peace with Genovese, and retired from the rackets. Costello would live in the Majestic until his death in 1973

 

Majestic Apartments

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