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Archive for the ‘Vito Genovese’ 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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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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Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

Joe Masseria’s Revenge

Location: 302 East 12th Street 

Status: Standing

 

Smarting over the recent attempt on his life, which had left two bullet holes through his hat and another two holes through his coat, Joe Masseria plotted bloody revenge in epic Italian Renaissance fashion.

 

Toto D’Aquila’s Chief Assassin

 

The target of his wrath was Umberto Valenti, a seriously wily character who had blasted those bullet holes through Masseria’s hat and coat. According to the New York Times in 1915, Valenti was:

…alleged to have arranged more shootings than any other man in the city…

 

oe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

In the guise of peace treaty, Joe Masseria lured Umberto Valenti to John’s of 12th Street for his last meal.

 

A former Black Hand extortionist, it was rumored that Valenti had killed over 20 men, a number of whom had been Masseria’s closest advisors. The thirty four year old Valenti was the chief assassin of Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila, the New York Mafia’s supreme ruler, a Mafioso who was locked in vicious mob war with Masseria and his chief strategist Giuseppe “the Clutch Hand” Morello.

 

However, Masseria’s seemingly supernatural bullet dodging powers had given the hard noised, but superstitious, Valenti second thoughts. Second thoughts that had him suing for peace and walking into an ambush in one of New York’s most storied Italian restaurants, John’s of 12th Street, on August 11, 1922, a restaurant that has been used as a set on Boardwalk Empire and the Sopranos.

 

Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

1.Umberto Valenti emerges from John’s of 12th Street. Lucky Luciano and another assassin open fire. 2. Valenti draws a revolver and is hit in the chest with a bullet. He staggers to a waiting taxicab and dies. 3. The gunmen shoot two innocent bystanders before disappearing into a tenement.

 

Well Dressed Gunmen: Vito Genovese and Lucky Luciano

 

Whether or not Valenti sampled the chicken parmigiana before being croaked has been lost to the winds of history. However, some time around noon, Valenti and six laughing companions emerged from their luncheon. Walking eastward, smiles turned into frowns. Suddenly, Valenti spooked and bolted towards Second Avenue as two slick, well-dressed gunmen whipped out revolvers and fired. Gangland legend holds that one of the shooters was none other than Charley “Lucky” Luciano, Masseria’s newest protégé (the other shooter was probably Vito Genovese).

 

The candle in John's of 12th Street was lit to celebrate the end of prohibition.

The candle in John’s of 12th Street was lit to celebrate the end of prohibition.

Pandemonium on 12th Street

 

As the shots flew, pandemonium broke loose on 12th Street. Whirling around, the feared assassin drew a revolver just as a bullet flew through his chest.

 

A teenage witness told the New York Times:

It was the coolest thing I ever saw. People were shrieking and running in all directions, and this fellow calmly fired shot after shot. He did not move until he had emptied his weapon. With blood spurting from his clothing, Valenti tried to raise up his pistol but his wounds prevented him from doing so. He made for a waiting taxicab, collapsing on the Northwest corner of 12th Street. (Click to read the original NY Times story)

 

Luciano’s Escape

 

Despite Valenti’s death, the friendly Luciano and his pals weren’t done yet. A crowd formed to block the gunmen’s escape so the mobsters opened fire, hitting a street sweeper and a little girl visiting from New Haven Connecticut. The shots dispersed the crowd, and the hitmen disappeared into a nearby tenement.

 

Should I Bring Pajamas? 

 

Masseria was arrested for the murder.  During his arrest, he supposedly grinned and asked the police:

… whether he would need a nightshirt remarking, that the last time he slept in the station house they forgot to give him a pillow or pajamas.

 

For a job well done, Joe Masseria elevated Luciano to a leadership position at his headquarters in the Hotel Pennsylvania. All murder charges were eventually dropped, and Masseria, on his way to becoming Joe the Boss, set his sights on Valenti’s overlord, Toto De Aquila, New York’s boss of bosses.

 

However, John’s of 12th had another infamous last meal lined up twenty years later. The victim would be Carlo Tresca.

 

Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street

Whether or not Umberto Valenti sampled the chicken parmigiana before being croaked has been lost to the winds of history.

 

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