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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, 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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M._Slavin_Socks_Lanza

105 South Street

Status: Standing

On the morning of May 19, 1926, Police investigators stumbled upon the bullet riddled body of William Mack, a labor organizer, sprawled out in a bloody heap in front of the United Seafood Workers Union headquarters. To anyone who knew anything about the Fulton Fish Market, the murder was the clearly the handiwork of New York City Mobster Joe Socks Lanza.

Socks_Lanza_Map

Socks Lanza

Joseph “Socks” Lanza, overlord of the Fulton Fishmarket, was nicknamed for the knockout power of his two ham sized fists.

The rub-out of Mack was yet another slaying in a minor war waged by the Irish mob to wrest the Fulton Fish Market from the Mafia’s slimy tentacles. No angel himself, Mack’s record included arrests for assault, burglary, and carrying a pistol, but it seemed that the Irish hoodlum’s luck ran out when he tangled with Lanza.

Following a trail of blood, Sergeant John Armstrong traced the body back to a speakeasy on the second floor of 105 South Street (M Slavin and Sons) where the Sergeant discovered a blood splattered bar and a lone bullet hole blasted through a wall. Lanza and three of his associates were tried for the crime, but as usual, the charges failed to cling to the slippery fish boss who went on to make headlines fighting Nazis with the Mafia in WWII.

M._Slavin_Socks_Lanza2

105 South Street today.

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