The recently married mermaid gave me a gift not long ago that I got to use this past week: a NYC Gangster Mob Tour! And let me tell you, it was loads of fun, a lot of walking (which I love) and nobody got whacked (which is too bad!). The tour was attended by about 12 people, almost all from out of town, and so the senior mermaid and I, and two friends were the only native New Yorkers on the tour. But we didn’t care as this is the greatest city in the world, so why not be a tourist every now and again.
The tour began at Petrosino Park between Kenmare and Lafayette Streets, just up the block from the old police headquarters on Centre Street. It started with a talk about the Sicilian who ultimately became one of NYC’s best early detectives, and the story ended with New York’s finest traveling to Palermo, Italy to track down a bad guy, but instead was murdered there because of a slip of the tongue here in the U.S. by the commissioner.
We walked down Kenmare Street, which is a broken down three blocks of a street west of the Bowery coming down from the Williamsburg Bridge. You would never know it, but our tour guide described how over 300 people were murdered on that tiny strip literally four blocks from the police station. The street was lined with gin-mills, brothels, and gambling establishments all owned and run by not only Italian mobsters, but their Jewish partners too.
As we made a left on to Mulberry Street and walked toward old St. Pat’s Cathedral, we heard names that we are all familiar with like: Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia and Joe Colombo. The stories are all the same, the old guard gets a little too comfortable, and the young rambunctious guys want to take over the turf. We’ve seen it in the Godfather, but these are the streets where it actually happened. As we got up further into what is now known as Nolita (North Little Italy), we got into John Gotti’s neighborhood and his club. And other names popped up, like, Paulie Castellano, who got whacked outside of Sparks Steak House in midtown; and Joey Gallo, who got it at Umberto’s right where we were standing. Interestingly, Umberto’s is no longer in the same location as when Joey took a few to the head, it’s now in the middle of the block on Mulberry.
We also covered names like Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino and Vincent “the chin” Gigante. All these guys have graced the front pages of the NY Daily News and the NY Post over the years, but we forget that they lived and worked right here in New York. There was also a discussion of Murder Inc. One of that crew was Bugsy Goldstein, hey wait a minute we have a Bugsy here in Rockaway too. If you want to talk Summer Classics, he’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse!
The tour wandered south across Canal Street on Mulberry into Chinatown and included an overview of the Tong Wars, the Chinese version of the mob. We didn’t walk over to the Bloody Angle of Doyers Street, but I highly recommend reading about it and walking that street.
But the tour wasn’t over yet. We walked to the far south end of Columbus Park, where old Chinese guys play one-stringed guitars (thought I saw Peg there) and banjos (originally from China). This last part was about the Five Points. The park itself is sitting on the northern end of what once was the Collect Pond, the largest fresh-water pond in New York, and the main water supply until completely polluted and filled in. Only to be polluted by the residents of the Five Points original mobsters, the likes of the Dead Rabbits and other gangs of New York. But that story is for another day.
The tour is organized by Metro NYC Tours, www.metronyctours.com, and was truly worth it. Take a walk in New York, you never know what you will find!