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Posts Tagged ‘Lucky Luciano’

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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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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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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Socks Lanza, Yakey Yake Brady, Fulton Fishmarket, South Street Seaport, Corlears Hook, The Bridge Café, Roxy Vanella, Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano, NYPD, Harbor Patrol, Socco the Bracer, Patsy Conroy, Saul and Howlett, River Pirates, Paris Cafe, NYPD Museum

Click to enlarge map in a new window.

Murder, mayhem and river pirates are not among the listed tourist attractions at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, but that’s exactly what a sightseer would have encountered during much of the district’s history.

Once a major port in the 1800s, this salty strip of land on the East River attracted merchantmen from around the globe for its deep waters and ice free docking, but with millions of dollars of cargo arriving daily came the dreaded specter of New York’s earliest organized crime syndicates—river pirates.

Today’s boutiques were once brothels and the gastro pubs rum holes. To walk these streets at night was to play a real-life game of Lets Make a Deal. Behind door number one: a whorehouse. Behind door number two: a dog-fighting pit. Behind door number three: shanghaiing, murder and death. Allow this South Street Seaport Walking tour to take you back to the days when river pirates and mobsters ruled South Street.

 

Gangs of the South Street Seaport Walking Tour Map

 

1 First Precinct: NYPD Museum

Location: 100 Old Slip, www.nycpolicemuseum.org

Status: Closed for Renovation

1st precinct 20

There’s probably no better place to start a tour of the criminal history of the South Street Seaport than the New York City Police Department museum. Sandwiched between looming skyscrapers, the landmarked 1909 neo-Renaissance First Precinct building represents the first modern police building in the U.S. and a must see for law enforcement buffs. Usually ringed with vintage NYPD vehicles parked curbside, the NYC Police Museum is under restoration because of flooding during Hurricane Sandy. When it reopens, guests will be treated to vintage uniforms, Willy Sutton’s lock picks, old mug shots, and the Tommy gun used to assassinate Frankie Yale.

 

2 Fulton Fish Market

Location: Pier 18 South Street

Status: Landmarked

Fulton Fishmarket Project Underworld Navy and the Mafia WWII

It was the heart of the Seaport and the queen of South Street, an insular, self-regulated 188-year-old world populated by fishmongers and scoundrels and sea captains and Mafiosi. Now desolate and rusty, the battered, but landmarked, corrugated metal Tin Building on Pier 17 once stood as the district’s high temple of brine. If you get there early enough and squint into rising sun you might see them, the ghosts of the fish men who toiled from 1822 to 2005 in their blood spattered aprons under the predatory gaze of the gangs of New York.

The Mafia arrived in 1919, when a twenty-year-old character exploded onto the scene. His name was Joseph Lanza, but his mafia co-workers called the 230-pound bulldozer “Socks” because of the knockout force in his meat hooks. With the help of his knuckles, the mobster organized the United Seafood Worker’s Union, Local 202, and a goon squad incorporated as the Fulton Market Watchmen and Patrol Association on behalf of Joe “The Boss” Massaria and later Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese. Lanza died in 1968 amid the constant probes of both federal and state organized crime task forces.

The Romano twins, Carmine and Vincent, picked up where Socks left off, extending the reign of the Genovese crime family into the late 1990s. The Federal Government convicted the Romano’s for violations of the Taft-Hartley anti-monopoly act in 1981, which paved the way for Rudolph Giuliani to initiate a lawsuit that placed the Fish Market under Federal Custodianship. In 2005, the reek of fish and crime wafted from the Fulton Fish Market for the last time when the entire industry packed up for the Hunt’s Point in the Bronx.

 

3 Water Street

Location: Water Street

Most visitors who stroll over the uneven cobblestones of Water Street fail to realize that the social reformer Oliver Dryer once called this thoroughfare:

“…the wickedest block in the wickedest ward in the wickedest city in America…” –Oliver Dryer

By the mid-1800s, Sailors arrived daily on Water Street to booze and whore the night away, but the seamen were always one step away from death. Consisting of one block of bars, brothels, rat pits and gambling dens, Water Street existed as the nexus of waterfront crime—a place where pirates plotted their next score, fixed elections and wrapped the corpses of murdered sailors in chains for disposal. On Water Street violence was endemic. The dives and whorehouses and hellholes that lined this street had fitting names. There was Long Marry’s at No. 275 and Mother McBride’s at No. 340, but none were more infamous than Kit Burn’s Rat Pit.

 

4: Kit Burn’s Rat Pit

Location: 273 Water Street

Status: Landmarked

Web Kit Burns the Ratpit today 273 Water Street

Now luxury apartments, 273 Water Street once represented the heart of Water Street’s “sporting culture. Officially named Sportsmen’s Hall, Kit Burn’s Rat Pit existed as New York City’s premier dog fighting and rat baiting venue. In the pit, a gaslight illuminated octagon, eighteen inches high, sixteen feet long, and eight feet wide, Kit pitted dogs against dogs and terriers against gigantic wharf rats in gladiatorial matches that would have made the Ancient Romans blush.

The pit was a family affair, and Kit ran business with his wife and daughter, Kitty, a dame well acquainted with the business end of a wooden club. For fun Kit brought in his son-in-law Jack the Rat, a character who would bit the head off a rat for a quarter a chomp. Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA, eventually put the bite on the Rat Pit and closed the establishment with the help of the NYPD. For a longer story on Kit Burn’s Rat Pit: https://infamousnewyork.com/2013/10/22/kit-burns-rat-pit/

 

5: The Bridge Café

Location: 279 Water Street Status: Closed for Renovation

http://bridgecafenyc.com

Bridge Cafe, 279 Water Street, Gallus Mag, River Pirates, South Street Seaport

The Bride Café on Water Street was once known as the Hole-In-The-Wall Saloon, a vicious den of 19th century depravity.

Nearly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the Bridge Café exists as New York City’s last remaining pirate bar. Back in the 1870’s, the café was called the Hole-in-the-Wall Saloon. Owned and operated by Jack Perry and his wife, Mag Perry, the infamous Gallus Mag. A suffragette, before women’s suffrage became popular, Gallus earned her nickname from the unthinkable act of wearing trousers, rather than dresses, and holding them up with galluses or suspenders. When clients gave her trouble, Gallus often bit off their ears and dropped them in a pickling jar behind the bar. One-Armed Charley Monell later took over the bar and converted the upper floors into a brothel. By the 1900s, the Bridge Cafe became a hangout for the Yakey Yake Brady gang. For a longer story Gallus Mag the Bridge Café: https://infamousnewyork.com/2013/11/14/save-the-bridge-cafe-new-york-citys-last-pirate-bar/

 

6: Vanella’s Funeral Chapel

Location: 29 Madison Street Status: Open

IMG_0100

An original member of Johnny Torrio’s James Street Gang, Roxie Vanella (Namesake of Vanella’s funeral chapel) followed Torrio to Chicago, leaving a crime spree in his wake. After killing a corrupt police officer and beating the charges, Vanella returned to Corlears Hook in New York and opened this funeral chapel at 29 Madison Street. For the complete story on Roxie Vanella: https://infamousnewyork.com/tag/vanellas-funeral-chapel/

 

7: Yakey Yake Brady and the Rumble for Cherry Street

Location: Cherry Street

Yaley Yake Brady

They came from the west with plunder on their minds and bucking revolvers in their hands. It was hard to say why in the spring of 1903 the thousand strong Monk Eastman mob turned their greedy paws on the slums of Cherry Street, but for John “Jake Yakey Yake” Brady it meant war.

Raised in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, Yakey Yake carved out a fiefdom in the Irish slum known as The Gap in the northerly hollow of Cherry Street. A former jockey and barrel maker, Brady’s professions didn’t prevent him from mixing it up with the rowdies. Arrested dozens of times for scores of “accidental” and intentional shootings, Brady became the most feared man in Corlears Hook with a reputation so dreadful that when a longshoreman pressed assault charges on Yake; the dockworker hanged himself rather than face the hoodlum’s retribution.

When Monk Eastman came for Yake’s waterfront kingdom, the blood of gangsters turned the East River red. As the New York Sun put it:

“Under the bridge, revolver shots have echoed by twos and threes and by hundreds.”—The New York Sun, 1903

Because of the Monk’s superior numbers, Yake formed an alliance with Eastman’s perennial rival, Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang, who had a nearby outpost on James Street garrisoned by Johnny Torrio and Roxy Vanella. To dam the tsunami of violence, the police ringed the district with undercover officers with orders to frisk and arrest any armed goons. The cops put Yakey Yake under such pressure that the gang leader wagered his barrel making firm on a card game and won a wagon team that he used to relocate to Jersey City, where he died in 1904.

 

8: The Sinking of Socco the Bracer

Location: Pier 27, Foot of Jackson Street

Flash, fire and smoke, lit up the night sky on May 29, 1873, when members of the Patsy Conroy mob exchanged gunfire with the harbor police at Jackson Street’s Pier. Earlier that evening, Joseph “Socko the Bracer” Gayle, Danny Manning, and Benny Woods hijacked a rowboat and rowed out in search of the ship, Margaret. Two skiff-borne harbor cops noticed the river pirates scampering up the ship’s anchor chain. Officers Musgrave and Kelly opened fire.

The rogues dove into their rowboat and pulled away into the darkness. A champion rower, Officer Musgrave gave chase while his partner scanned the horizon with a lantern, which was greeted by a pistol blast. The police answered with their six-shooters and traded broadsides with the thugs like a man-o’-war until a bullet tore through Socko. His companions pitched him overboard and the river bandit sunk to the bottom like a lead plated mackerel. The authorities apprehended Benny Woods the next day. Unfortunately, the Margaret sailed for China with the witnesses, ending any chance of a conviction.

9: Murder on the East River: The Saul and Howlett Story

Location: East River, Foot of Oliver Street

On the night of August 25, 1852, a pistol shot rang out from the Thomas Watson, a cargo ship anchored at the foot of Oliver Street. As Charles Baxter, the ship’s night watchman bled to death, two pirates rifled through the dying man’s clothing. The thieves then heard the rapping of a police nightstick against the cobble stone street, the signal for reinforcements in the days before police whistles.

A dozen lantern-carrying police officers sprinted to the scene, collaring William Saul and Nicholas Howlett, two river-borne rogues that Herbert Asbury incorrectly identified as leaders of the Daybreak Boys. (Former Chief of Police George Walling believed that the two men were the leaders of the Hook Gang) Whatever their affiliation, Saul and Howlett terrorized the waterfront for over a decade and the Chief credited the pair with twenty murders. The Baxter murder; however, would become one of the most sensational stories of the decade, signaling the end of the East River pirates. Saul and Howlett were found guilty of the murder were hanged in the Tomb’s courtyard on January 28, 1853. Bill “The Butcher” Poole attended the hanging to wish his river pirate friends farewell.

 

10: The Wickedest Man in America:

John Allen’s Dance Hall

Location: 304 Water Street

Status: Demolished

Wickedest Man in New York, John Allen. 304 Water Street, Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport, Corlear’s Hook, 4th Ward, Westley Allen, Wess Allen, The. Allen, Theodore Allen, Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York, Saloon

Priests, police and just about everyone else in New York City called John Van Allen the wickedest man in New York, and he reveled in it. In less than twenty years, Allen amassed over 113 arrests for running disorderly houses across the city, but his most infamous den was this now demolished Water Street dancehall.

The three-story bordello at 304 Water Street offered several dance floors, an orchestra pit and booths for sex serviced by Allen’s crew of twenty ladies of the night. A natural self-promoter, Allen set the tabloids aflame with his wacky antics even attracting the attention of Mark Twain who described Allen as, “a tall, plain, boney, fellow, with a good-natured look in his eye, a Water Street air all about him, and a touch of Irish in his face.” In reality, Allen probably wasn’t the wickedest man on Water Street by a long shot (his brother’s The. And Wes were far more wicked), but after his ceaseless campaigning for the title, the moniker stuck when the fishmonger transformed his whorehouse into New York City’s wackiest religious revival.

 

11 The NYPD Harbor Patrol

The murder of the ship watchman Charles Baxter by the infamous desperados Nicholas Howlett and William Saul alerted the public to waterfront crisis. Chief Walling commented on his battles with Saul and Howlett in his autobiography. He wrote,

“My investigations in this murder opened up to me a chapter in the annals of crime, of full horrors of which I never dreamed…human monsters prowled around our river fronts…who thought no more of the life of a man than that of a chicken.” Police Chief George Washington Walling

Following the Saul and Howlett case, the Police Department organized its first harbor patrol of several rowboats and took the war to the seas. The department purchased a steam ship named the Deer, which functioned as a fulltime floating station house. In 1858, the Metropolitan Police Force expanded the harbor unit to 57 men, six rowboats and the paddle wheel steamer, Senica. The men of the harbor police used to joke that the steamship was only fast when she was tied to the pier. The Senica was an abject failure that only made one arrest before burning to the waterline in 1880. Despite the failure of the flagship, the harbor force brought the pirates to their knees, pacifying the waters of the East River by the turn of the century and driving crime to the shores.

 

12 Meyer Hotel, The Paris Café and Project Underworld

Location: 119 South Street

Status: Landmarked

To complete your tour of the South Street Seaport, step into the Paris Café and have a drink at its original, hand-carved bar and ponder its history. Home to longshoremen, sea captains and mobsters, the Paris Café has served beer since 1873.

Constructed by alcohol merchant Henry Meyer, the Meyer Hotel and its Paris Café stood out as the poshest hotel and bar in the district. Thomas Edison, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Theodore Roosevelt all spent time in the building before beginning voyages to Europe and South America. When the passenger steamship lines moved their docks to the new Chelsea Piers terminal, the hotel fell into disrepair and the mafia took control.

By the 1930’s, Albert Anastasia and Louis Lepke Buckhaulter regularly met in the bar. Upstairs in the hotel, Socks Lanza orchestrated his fish empire. Socks controlled the Seaport with such impunity that the U.S. Navy came calling for the racketeer in the 1940s with an unusual proposition. They wanted him to help fight the Nazis.

Eventually with Lanza’s help, naval agents embedded themselves on the Atlantic fishing fleets to observe German submarines. Lucky Luciano was even contacted in Dannemora prison to help plan the invasion of Sicily.

For more information on Project Underworld: Allegiance between the Navy and the Mafia.

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Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll

Accused of murdering a fifteen-year-old boy during a drive by shooting, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll (far right) and his mob yucked it up with reporters during the trial.

Location: 312 West 23rd Street

Status: Standing

 

By February of 1932, there wasn’t a soul in New York who didn’t want Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll on a slab in the morgue. The psychopathic egg had blow torched every bridge in gangland, and now Coll had to die

 

Powerful Enemies

 

During Prohibition’s heyday, Coll and his mob amassed a legendary list of underworld adversaries such as Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Owney Madden. First to join Coll’s list was the Beer Barron of the Bronx, Dutch Schultz, Coll’s former employer.

 

Paid to protect Dutch’s beer trucks, Coll, suffering from delusions of grandeur, decided to hijack the shipments instead. Schultz responded by putting the blast on Mad Dog’s kid brother and all out war erupted in the spring of 1931.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Now a Petland Discounts store, 312 West 23rd Street played host to Coll’s brutal machine gun murder.

 

Racketeer Without a Racket

 

Without a racket to fund his war against Dutch, the freelance gangster hatched the incredibly idiotic plan of kidnapping wealthy bootleggers like Big Frenchy DeMange, best friend of Hell’s Kitchen’s resident vice lord and owner of the Cotton Club, Owney Madden, whose nickname just happened to be “Killer.”

 

Coll made a clean sneak from the crime, shaking $50,000 out of Madden, but the Mad Dog wasn’t done by a long shot.

 

On July 28, Coll and his chopper squad loaded their tommy guns, jumped into a sedan and strafed the Helmar Social Club, headquarters of Schultz policy boss, Joey Rao. Machine gun gun bullets cut down five children, killing Michael Vengalli along with two Schultz heavies.

 

The Making of Mad Dog

In response to the brutal crime, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker dubbed Vincent Coll, “Mad Dog,” but Coll wasn’t finished alienating the powerful. In September of 1931, Salvatore Maranzano hired Coll to bump off Lucky Luciano.

 

However, Luciano’s men beat Coll to the punch, arriving a few minutes earlier to dispatch Maranzano. Coll walked away from the scene smiling and with yet another nemesis.

 

Vincent_-Mad_Dog-_Coll

Mad Dog Coll

 

Joseph Bonnano noted in his autobiography, A Man of Honor,

 

“Luciano told me he was forced to strike against Maranzano after learning that Maranzano had hired Vincent Coll to kill Luciano.”—Joseph Bonnano

 

Owney Madden Puts Mad Dog Coll on the Spot

 

With the police hounding him and every mob in New York hunting him, Coll checked into the Cornish Arms Hotel on 23rd Street. On February 8, he walked into the London Chemist drugstore (now Pet Land Discounts) located at 312 West 23rd Street. Waiting for a phone call from Owney Madden to discuss a truce, Coll walked straight into an ambush.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Gangland put Mad Dog Coll on the spot at 312 West 23rd street at the London Chemists.

Phone Booth Massacre

 

When Coll entered a phone booth and spoke with Madden, the trap was sprung. Outside, a large limousine roared up to the curb, spilling out three gangsters.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

The bullet riddled phone booth in which Mad Dog Coll was cut down. (Library of congress )

 

Two of the torpedoes covered the door, while a third drew a Thompson submachine gun from his trench coat, walked up to Coll’s phone booth and sprayed it with lead, killing the psychopathic, twenty three year old Coll instantly. According to the New York Evening Post:

 

“How many shots were fired is not known. Some witnesses said fifteen others said fifty. As the killer backed out of the store, the door of the booth opened slowly and Coll’s body pitched forward, three bullets in the head, three in the chest, one in the abdomen and eight and the arms and legs.”—New York Evening Post, 1932

 

The murder of Vincent Coll remains unsolved.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street, london chemists

A New York City police officer standing in front of the drugstore where gangster Vincent Coll was murdered. (Photo Library of Congress.

 

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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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Lucky Luciano, Herlands Report, Socks Lanza, South Street Seaport, Fulton Fish Market, Navy, Commander Charles Haffenden, WWII, Mafia, Mob, Paris Cafe

Project Underworld: The Incredible alliance between the Navy and the Mafia during the Second World War.

Location: Fulton Fish Market and the Meyer Hotel, 119 South Street

Status: Landmarked 

Closed lipped and insular, the longshoremen of the Fulton Fish Market proved impossible to infiltrate, but the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) knew there was no other option. By 1942, Nazi submarines pushed the Allies to the breaking point, sinking 650,000 tons of cargo a month. Observers spotted U-boat wolf packs roving up and down the cost of Long Island. Then on February 9, the troop transport Normandie spontaneously combusted on the West Side of Manhattan.

 

Nazi Spies in New York

To ONI, it was obvious. Nazi agents had infiltrated the Port of New York, and only the mob had the power to hunt them down. Here at the Fulton Fish Market, the United States Navy orchestrated one of the most unusual alliances of WWII that remained a secret until 1977, when author Rodney Campbell uncovered the classified Herland’s Investigative Report, a 101-page summary of the Navy’s involvement in Operation UNDERWORLD.

 

Lucky Luciano, Herlands Report, Socks Lanza, South Street Seaport, Fulton Fish Market, Navy, Commander Charles Haffenden, WWII, Mafia, Mob, Paris Cafe, Operation UNDERWORLD, Second World War

Tsar of the Fish Market

The task of penetrating the Fish Market fell to Commander Charles Radcliffe Haffenden, the swashbuckling leader of ONI’s investigative unit. With the help of the head of the New York Rackets Bureau, Murray Gurfien, Haffenden contacted the fishy tsar of the Fulton Fish Market, Joseph “Socks” Lanza, a hulking 250 lb mafia bulldozer in the Luciano Crime Family whose resume included arrests for burglary, extortion and homicide( https://infamousnewyork.com/2013/08/26/socks-lanza-the-seafood-king-strikes-again/ ).

 

Fulton Fishmarket Project Underworld Navy and the Mafia WWII

 

Up in The Old Hotel

From his headquarters in the Meyer Hotel above the infamous Longshoreman bar, the Paris Café, Socks’ clammy grip on the United Seafood Workers Union stretched from Florida to Maine.

The NY DA’s office arranged a secret meeting with Socks where Gurfein pleaded:

 

 “Many of our ships are being sunk along the Atlantic coast. We suspect German U-boats are being refueled and getting fresh supplies off our coast…You can find out how and where the submarines are being refueled.”

Socks jumped at the chance to aid the Navy, but the DA’s office wiretapped Lanza’s phones at the Meyer hotel to ensure his loyalty. Their bugs would record conversations detailing Navy inspired mayhem that included assaults, break-ins, and possible murders.

Socks Lanza, Operation Underworld, Meyer Hotel

Socks Lanza managed the mob’s end of Project UNDERWORLD from his office at the Meyer Hotel on South Street.

Agent Lanza

The next morning Lanza called his long time associate Benjamin Espy, a former bootlegger who served time in Lewisburg Penitentiary. Together Lanza and Espy demanded that ship suppliers report unusual purchases of fuel to them. Next, the two gangsters moved onto the fishing vessels and set up a network of fishermen to keep an eye out for submarines. The fish racket boss’ success startled Haffenden. Sensing the Mafia’s influential grip, the commander requested union books to place agents on long-range fishing vessels. Socks responded by providing his personal books used for no show payoff jobs, and Haffenden’s agents sailed aboard mackerel fleets bound for Maine, Florida and Newfoundland under the protective wing of the Mafia.

Socks Lanza, tsar of the Fulton Fish Market.

Socks Lanza, tsar of the Fulton Fish Market.

 

Branching Out

Commander Haffenden wanted more. He wanted access to the West Side piers controlled by the Irish Mob’s Joseph Ryan and his enforcer Johnny Cockeye Dunn, as well as the Brooklyn waterfront, controlled by Albert Anastasia. Joe Socks balked at the prospects of facing Anastasia’s explosive temper and legendary trigger finger. Furthermore, Lanza lacked the influence to cross the ethnic divide into Irish controlled Hell’s Kitchen.

According to Socks Lanza, there was only one man capable of:

 

“Snapping the whip in the entire underworld.”

That man was New York’s imprisoned emperor of vice, Lucky Luciano.

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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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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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