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The Death of Albert Anastasia Featured Image Park Central Barbershop

Address:870 7th Avenue

Status: Starbucks  

Now a Starbucks like everything else in New York City, the old barbershop in the Park Central Sheraton Hotel may be one of the most infamous spots in Manhattan. The Park Sheraton hosted two of Manhattan’s most notorious mob hits. On November 4th, 1928, Arnold Rothstein walked into the Park Central’s front door and few hours later he spilled out of the service entrance with a bullet in his gut (click to read the Death of Arnold Rothstein). 29 years later, the Park Central would see blood again, but this time in its barbershop.

 

Two hitmen rubbed out Albert Anastasia in the Park Central Sheraton Hotel located at 870 7th Avenue.

Two hitmen rubbed out Albert Anastasia in the Park Central Sheraton Hotel located at 870 7th Avenue.

Albert Anastasia’s Last Shave

 

At 10:30 A.M., October 26, 1957, Albert Anastasia, the highlord executioner of the mob and retired CEO of Murder Inc., strutted into Grasso’s Barber shop in The Park Sheraton Hotel with his pint sized godson and protege, Vincent Squillante. The duo plopped down into barber chairs (now in the Mob Museum) and ordered shaves and haircuts, unusual behavior considering a massive mob war had just been averted.

 

The old barbershop in the Park Central Sheraton Hotel is now a Starbucks like everything else in New York City. Death of Albert Anastasia

The old barbershop in the Park Central Sheraton Hotel is now a Starbucks like everything else in New York City.

 

Anastasia nearly went to the mattresses five months earlier by declaring war on Vito Genovese for an attempted rubout of Frank Costello (Click to read the story about Frank Costello). After threatening scorched-earth revenge, The Highlord Executioner had assurances from the Five Families that there would be no bloodshed. According to Joseph Bonanno:

 

“…Anastasia and Genovese met at a select dinner gathering… Albert and Vito exchanged accusations and made counter charges. They clarified and rationalized their positions. But at last, though reluctantly, they renounced going to war against each other. The rest of us raised our glasses in a toast for peace. Albert and Vito kissed each other on the cheek.” – Joseph Bonanno, Man of Honor

 

Now at the apex of his power, Anastasia sat back and let his barber cover his face with piping hot towels. The bad blood had coagulated and Genovese could be trusted, or so Anastasia thought. According to Bonanno, Albert finally conquered his explosive temper. He had matured, and it would cost him his life.

 

The Trifecta: Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese

 

Rather than blood feuding with Genovese, Anastasia spent the next few months expanding his empire into Cuban casinos with Santos Trafficante and built a mansion in Fort Lee., while Genovese maneuvered to overthrow the CEO of Murder Inc.

Genovese and Lucchese crept through the underworld seeking tacit approval for the death of Anastasia. They contacted Meyer Lansky and wooed Carlo Gambino, Anastasia’s underboss, to set up Anastasia’s downfall.

 

The Missing Bodyguard

 

For a man who dealt in death his entire life, Al Anastasia threw caution to the wind. Arrested for homicide six times with diverse weapons which ranged from ice picks to revolvers, Anastasia perfected the unsolvable mob hit and the “one way ride”.

 

Squillante

Anastasia’s protege, Vincent Squillante survived the barbershop attack.

 

Despite the homicidal resume, Anastasia had gotten lax. On the day of his assassination, his bodyguard and chauffeur, Anthony Copolla, was nowhere to be found. Copolla dropped Anastasia off at the barbershop, parked the Chevy in a lot and never returned. Even more unthinkable, the mobster took a barber chair with his back facing the door. A setup loomed and the new mature  Anastasia missed the tell-tale signs.

 

The Barbershop Quintet

 

The attack was a classic mob hit. Two identically dressed gunmen hidden beneath aviator sunglasses, fedoras, and scarves wrapped around their faces walked into the hotel lobby. A wheelman and lookout in the lobby were waiting for them outside.

 

DSCN0802

The renovated lobby of the Park Central Hotel. The door into the barbershop (now Starbucks has been removed).

 

Entering from the lobby, the gunmen walked around a partition which screens the shop’s chairs and walked directly to Chair No. 4, taking aim at Anastasia’s back. One hitman strode to the left of Anastasia and pushed aside the barber with the muzzle of his gun. The other killer strode to Anastasia’s right. Suddenly, they opened fire with their .32 and .38 caliber revolvers.

Five bullets tore into the mafia chieftain. Dazed, Anastasia lunged at his own reflection in the mirror before collapsing into a heap of bloody towels. The hit squad fled through the lobby sparing both the barber, and Squillante, Anastasia’s protege, who yelped, “Let me outta here!”

Albert Anastasia was gunned down in the Park Central Hotel.

Albert Anastasia was gunned down in the Park Central Hotel.

Who Murdered Anastasia?

 

The police never apprehended the mob hitmen and the crime remains unsolved. According to New York magazine, a police informant named Sidney Slater claimed Crazy Joe Gallo bragged that the rubout was the handywork of his hit team. According to New York Magazine, Crazy Joe remarked:

 

“From now on Sidney… You can just call the five of us the barbershop quintet.” New York Magazine, 1972- The Mafia at War.

 

Unsanctioned by the Mafia Commission, the hit squad consisted of Crazy Joe Gallo, Joseph Gioielli, Carmine Persico, Albert Gallo and an unidentified co-conspirator.

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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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Lucky Luciano Apartment Waldorf Astoria

Status: Standing

Location: 301 Park Avenue, Suite 39C

 

Sidestepping bullets, one-way rides and innumerable gang wars, he grew to be the master of prohibition era New York. He was vain, narcissistic, and volatile, a textbook sociopath, but he was also fabulously wealthy, an attribute about which most people could not boast during the Great Depression.

 

By the mid-1930s, Salvatore Lucky Luciano wanted to kickback and enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten swindles. He had outgrown his “modest” suite in the Barbizon Plaza overlooking the Lake in Central Park and he wanted something a little nicer.

 

800px-Lucky_Luciano_mugshot_1931

 

The Toniest Address in New York

 

Driven by a massive inferiority complex, Lucky needed something bigger, something better, something swankier. He wanted no less than the toniest address in the whole City of New York. He wanted to live in the Waldorf Astoria Towers.

 

He later reminisced to Richard Hammer and Martin Gosch, authors of The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano:

 “I figured if everybody was gonna call me the boss, I was entitled to live in an apartment that was above Frank’s… the Towers was the best class address in New York.”

According the to Waldorf’s website:

“The Waldorf Towers represents the pinnacle of New York grandeur, with a long-established legacy of providing guests with exceptional privacy and personalized service.”

 

Privacy and personalized service were exactly what Luciano received at the Waldorf. He rented apartment 39C as Mr. Charles Ross and paid his $800 a month rent in hundred dollar bills.

 

Lucky Luciano Apartment, Frank Costello, Longy Zwillman, Meyer Lansky

Lucky Luciano lived in apartment 39c under the alias Charles Ross.

 

The gang lord could count on secrecy in his rooms where he entertained the moguls of the mob such as Longy Zwillman, Tony Bender, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. His criminal conspirators could then sneak out of Lucky’s pad and disappear into the city through the hotel’s packed arcade. A parking garage allowed the gangster to park his car and ride a private elevator to his room.

 

Lucky Luciano Waldorf Hotel

 

For kicks, Lucky would give the famed madam Polly Adler a ring and she would dispatch her best call girls. When Lucky felt more domestic, he spent evenings with his showgirl girlfriend, Gay Orlova.

 

Waldorf Int

 

It was a gangland dream come true, but things nearly went south when one of Lucky’s goons showed up at the front desk asking for Charlie Lucky. An outraged clerk stormed up to Luciano’s suite demanding answers.

 

Lucky recalled in The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano:

“…I knew the towers wasn’t gonna throw me out. After all, I was payin’ my rent regular, which was more than they could say about some of the bluebloods that was freeloadin’ there. So I figured it was payoff time.”

 

Greasing the Waldorf’s Wheels

Lucky placed the Astoria’s desk clerk on the payroll, greasing him with $200 a month.The bribes eventually paid off in March of 1936 when detectives from Thomas E. Dewey’s office stormed the lobby looking for the gangster. The clerk tipped off Luciano, and he hopped into his private elevator and roared off in his car.

 

Dewey eventually caught up with Lucky Luciano in Hot Springs Arkansas. He was sentence to 30 to 50 years for operating a massive prostitution ring. Lucky was sent to the frigid Dannemora Prison on the Canadian border where hoped for a day when he could return to linens, massages and private elevators.

 

Luciano would eventually return to the lap of luxury courtesy of the United States Navy.

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Location: 1500 Broadway

Status: Demolished

 

They called themselves the Broadway mob. Members of the gang rubbed shoulders with high society, supplying the most exclusive speakeasies in New York with top-shelf, uncut booze. From their offices at the now demolished Hotel Claridge, located at 1500 Broadway, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Segal and Frank Costello would go from street gang to the masters of dry New York, making themselves multi-millionaires in the process.

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

 

Located in the heart of Times Square, on the east corner of 44th and Broadway, the Claridge Hotel was built in 1910 and according to the 1917 Real United States and Canada Pocket Guide,

 

“ Claridge’s Hotel, formerly Rector’s…was the great theatrical and bohemian after-theater restaurant…”

 

By 1922, Orwell Maximillian Zipkes purchased the hotel, adding a two-story arcade with shops and offices that Lansky, Luciano, Segal and Costello would use to build their empire.

 

Like a league of extraordinary criminals, the gang’s success came from the Broadway Mob’s remarkably diverse hoodlum resumes. Costello was the talker, forging the alliances with Tammany Hall that allowed the mob to steal at will and carry concealed weapons, legally.

 

The psychopathic Bugsy Segal provided the muscle, killing and beating anyone who stood in their way. The bookworm, Lansky, existed as a behind the scenes strategist and human adding machine, making the gangsters wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Its leader, the oldest member of the gang, was Lucky Luciano, a gangland heavy who oozed reptilian charm.

 

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

In the 1920s, the Hotel Clairidge served as Lucky Luciano’s headquarters.

Lansky’s Law

Guided by Luciano’s charisma and Lansky’s financial acumen, the gang became rumrunners. They heisted furs and stuck-up banks to fund liquor shipments of the purist scotch in town, purchased from the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein.

 

The small time gangsters’ moxie captured A.R.’s attention, and an internship in crime ensued.

 

Meeting With The Mentor

Rothstein mentored the gang from his booth at Lindy’s, teaching them how to dress, how to speak and how to conduct themselves in high society. According to the Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Luciano recalled:

 

He [Rothestein] taught me how to dress…how to use knives and forks…about holdin’ a door open for a girl, or helpin’ her sit down…”

 

In exchange for the mentoring, Lansky, Luciano and Costello served as Rothstein’s muscle, protecting his alcohol and narcotics shipments.

 

Purist Booze in Town

They travelled abroad as Rothstein’s purchasing agents, buying direct from distilleries in Scotland, keeping the Stork Club, The Silver Slipper, The 21 Club and the rest of Broadway’s high-end speakeasies swimming in hooch.

 

Pet Gangsters

By the height of prohibition, Pet gangsters were all the rage, and Luciano, Costello, Lansky and Siegel were the coolest mob in town. Suave, wealthy and deadly, they dated Ziegfeld Girls and slept with heiresses, earning them a privileged spot as the darlings of New York high society.

 

Luciano recalled:

 “Within a year, we was buyin’ influence all over Manhattan, from lower Broadway all the way up to Harlem.”

 

Mafia Talent Scouts

But the Broadway Mob had other, less reputable, admirers. A secret criminal society mostly unheard of in America, known as the Mafia, had their eyes on Luciano, the only Sicilian member of the gang.

 

Both the Masseria Crime Family and the Maranzano Crime Family knew that whomever controlled Luciano, controlled the Broadway Mob and their fat bankrolls and political connections. Masseria would eventually win Luciano’s loyalty. He was then upgraded to a floor of suites in the Hotel Pennsylvania, but for the rest of his life in American; however, Luciano maintained an unofficial office at the Hotel Claridge. The hotel was demolished in 1972.

 

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Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia.

Location: 100 East 17th Street

Status: Landmarked 

 

It was the last wigwam, the tiger’s lair where Tammany Hall reached it’s zenith before fading into historical footnote. Funded by a prohibition-era bankroll, the red brick, Neo Georgian structure located at 100 East 17th Street on the North East Corner of Union Square, represents the last true home of New York’s greatest political machine.

 

Constructed at cost of $350,000, the building was dedicated on July 4, 1929, by Presidential Candidate Alfred E. Smith, a notorious “wet” who vowed to end prohibition if elected, and his archrival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an upstate politician who would do more to destroy Tammany Hall than anyone else.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

Tammany Hall was located at 100 East 17th Street.

 

Whitewashing Corruption

For an added touch to whitewash the corruption, the architects decked the building out in patriotic splendor, choosing bricks modeled from Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

This balcony overlooking Union Square served as Tammany Hall’s bully pulpit, allowing politicians to address the masses below.

 

On the 17th Street entrance to the Hall, columns inspired by Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s presidential oath, adorned the second and third floors.

 

Nearby, friezes of Christopher Columbus, a Revolutionary War era liberty cap and Chief Tammany, the organization’s namesake, ornamented the exterior of the building.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Chief Tammany, namesake of Tammany Hall.

Tammany’s Bully Pulpit

The focal point of the entire wigwam was a balcony, which served a pulpit for Tammany bigwigs such as: Mayor Jimmy Walker, presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith, and Senator Robert Wagner to speechify to masses gathered around Union Square. But little did the sachams know, Tammany Hall had nowhere to go but down.

 

Tipping the Paradigm

For over 100 years, Tammany ward heelers incubated organized crime in New York City, fostering and organizing a network of gangs whom they schooled in mayhem and rolled out on Election Day.

 

Sent to smash ballot boxes in Republican neighborhoods and repeat vote in Democratic strongholds, Tammany awarded the crooks perpetual get out of jail free cards for their work.

 

Tammany politicians looted the city and taxed vice, making themselves millionaires in the process of redistributing this wealth to the city’s most marginalized inhabitants.The Hall was known for handing out ice in the summer, coal in the winter and turkeys at Thanksgiving in a time before social security.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Ultimately, prohibition turned the paradigm on its head. Bootleggers, gangsters and gunmen made multi-millions of dollars overnight and paid for their political protection, rather than earning it with their fists at the polls.

 

The rain of money turned into a deluge, and Tammany became minions of the mob. By the 1930s, the Hall was firmly in the hands of the National Crime Syndicate with Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Frank Costello puling the strings.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Tammany Sachem, Alfred E. Smith, dedicated the building alongside his political rival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man who did more to destroy Tammany than anyone else.

Under intense pressure from FDR and Fiorello La Guardia, the hall vacated the building in 1943, selling it to a labor union, marking the beginning of an irreversible decline. On the occasion, Mayor La Guardia remarked:

 

“You know, I wouldn’t change the name of the building [Tammany Hall]… I would keep it as a permanent monument to the change that came for the City of New York when a mighty, ruthless organization left the building to an organization of the people.”—Fiorello La Guardia

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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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