2015-02-04 / Features

Notorious Gangsters Rest In Peace In Queens

BY JASON D. ANTOS

The vault of Charles “Lucky” Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania) at St. John’s Cemetery.
PHOTO JASON D. ANTOSThe vault of Charles “Lucky” Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania) at St. John’s Cemetery. PHOTO JASON D. ANTOSOn January 13, the final season of Boardwalk Empire was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. For five seasons, the HBO series about the rise of organized crime during Prohibition entertained with amazing costumes, sets and beautifully detailed and richly written episodes, along with unforgettable characters including the fictional Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), Chalky White and Agent Nelson Van Alden. Along with the fictional gangsters portrayed in the series produced by Martin Scorsese, there were many real life gangsters featured as well, including Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Joe Masseria, Salvatore Maranzano, Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Arnold Rothstein.


Many would be surprised to know that the latter four and many other notorious names from the golden age of “Murder, Inc.” have Queens as their final resting place.


Rothstein, nicknamed “The Brain”, is the most famous of the league of Jewish gangsters whose most infamous accomplishment was fixing the 1919 World Series.


A brilliant businessman, Rothstein was one of the persons to realize that the constitutional ban on alcohol, or Prohibition, was a lucrative business opportunity that would lead to enormous wealth. Rothstein would become the king of the Jewish underworld bootlegging illegal alcohol throughout the country. Born in 1882 into a wealthy family, Rothstein brought liquor in by smuggling it along the Hudson River, as well as from Canada across the Great Lakes and into Upstate New York. Rothstein also purchased a number of speakeasies.


Rothstein’s reign came to an end on Nov. 4, 1928, when he was shot and mortally wounded Arnold Rothstein, nicknamed “The Brain”, is the most famous of the league of Jewish gangsters whose most infamous accomplishment was fixing the 1919 World Series. A brilliant businessman, Rothstein would become the king of the Jewish underworld bootlegging illegal alcohol throughout the country. He is buried in Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood.
Arnold Rothstein, nicknamed “The Brain”, is the most famous of the league of Jewish gangsters whose most infamous accomplishment was fixing the 1919 World Series. A brilliant businessman, Rothstein would become the king of the Jewish underworld bootlegging illegal alcohol throughout the country. He is buried in Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood. during a business meeting at Manhattan’s Park Central Hotel at Seventh Avenue near 55th Street. He died the next day at the Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital in Manhattan. The shooting was reportedly linked to debts owed from a high-stakes poker game in which Rothstein hit a cold streak and ended up owing $320,000. As he lay dying, Rothstein refused to identify his killer, answering police inquiries with “Me mudder did it.”


Rothstein was buried at Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony.


One of Rothstein’s protégés was Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Born in Sicily in 1897, Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania), would become one of the most powerful mobsters of his era. Luciano is considered the father of modernizing the organized crime syndicate in America and for helping to create the so-called Five Families and the establishment of the National Crime Syndicate along with his long-time friend and associate Meyer Lansky. From 1916 to 1936, Luciano was arrested 25 times on charges including assault, illegal gambling, blackmail and robbery, but spent no time in prison. As a teenager, Luciano started his own gang. Unlike other street gangs whose business was petty crime, Luciano offered protection to Jewish youngsters from Italian and Irish gangs for 10 cents per week. In later years Luciano, with financial help from Rothstein, was deeply rooted in running booze during Prohibition.


By 1925, Luciano was grossing more than $12 million a year. By the 1930s, Luciano knew it was time to get rid of the old way the mob did business. He single-handedly stopped the legacy of traditional mob bosses who had started their criminal careers in Italy, known as “Mustache Petes”, by ordering the deaths of Joe Masseria (who is buried in Calvary Cemetery) and Salvatore Maranzano. These bosses refused to work with non-Italians, and were even skeptical of working with non-Sicilians. Some of the most traditional bosses only worked with men with roots in their own Sicilian village. Luciano, in contrast, was willing to work with Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters.


His luck, however, would run out when in 1947, after being deported, Luciano made his way to Cuba in an attempt to get close to the United States. He was deported by Cuban authorities and sent back to Italy, where he would spend the rest of his days until dying of a heart attack at age 64 on Jan. 26, 1962. His body was sent back to his beloved New York City and St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village was chosen as his final resting place. Luciano was interred in a vault, which he purchased in 1935 for $25,000 according to The New York Times. He is buried along with his mother, father, aunt and uncle. The name on the vault featuring Greek columns is the family name, Lucania.


Ironically, his vault is just a few feet away from the grave of Maranzano, the mob chieftain whom he had murdered three decades before.


St. John’s Cemetery is also the final resting place for other notorious names of the criminal underworld, including John Gotti (aka The Teflon Don and The Last Don), as well as Joe Colombo, and Carlo Gambino.


Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.Louis “Lepke” Buchalter was born on Feb. 6, 1897 in Manhattan on the Lower East Side. His mother called him “Lepkeleh” or Little Louis in Yiddish. This name eventually became the nickname Lepke.   


Despite his criminal career, Buchalter’s siblings enjoyed legitimate careers and successes. One brother became a dentist, while another brother taught college and became a rabbi, and the third brother opened a pharmacy. His father, Barnett Buchalter, was a Russian immigrant who operated a hardware store.


Where other gangsters of his time prospered in bootlegging, prostitution and even drugs, Buchalter’s racket was death.


In the early 1930s, Buchalter created an effective process for performing contract killings for the gangsters that the press called Murder, Inc. They wanted to disassociate themselves from any connection to the murders they ordered.


Buchalter’s partner, mobster Albert Anastasia, would relay a contract request from the mobsters to Buchalter. In turn, Buchalter would assign the job to Jewish and Italian street gang members from Brooklyn.


None of these contract killers had any connections with the major crime families. If they were caught, they could not implicate their employers in the crimes. One of the most famous killings authorized by Murder Inc. was the shooting of Dutch Schultz.


By the end of the 1930s, Buchalter had 250 men working for him and was making more than $1 million per year. He also had interests in racketeering in trucking, baking, and garment industries throughout New York City.


By the start of America’s involvement in World War II, the law was closing in on Buchalter. He was finally arrested after a massive manhunt that lasted for several years. When he was finally caught, Buchalter was found guilty on numerous charges that included narcotics trafficking and especially orchestrating the murders of numerous people.


On Jan. 21, 1944, after many delays and much controversy, federal agents finally turned Buchalter over to state authorities who immediately transported him to Sing Sing prison, now known as Ossining Correctional Facility.


The mobster known as Lepke, head of Murder Inc., made several pleas for mercy, but they were rejected.


On Mar. 4, 1944, Louis Buchalter was executed in the electric chair in Sing Sing.
His grave at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing reads “Beloved Husband and Father”.

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