2015-11-11 / Book Review

Gangland New York Revisits Haunts Of Famous Gangsters

BY JASON D. ANTOS


Gangland New York: The Places and Faces of Mob History by Anthony M. Destefano, Globe Pequot Press/Lyons Press (216 pages, paperback, July 2015, $19.95). Gangland New York: The Places and Faces of Mob History by Anthony M. Destefano, Globe Pequot Press/Lyons Press (216 pages, paperback, July 2015, $19.95). Gangland New York: The Places and Faces of Mob History by Anthony M. Destefano gives readers a taste of New York’s underworld by showing where mobsters lived, worked, ate, played and, yes, died. From the Bowery Boys and the Five Points Gang through the rise of the Jewish “Kosher Nostra” and the ascendance of Italian organized crime, mobsters have played a major role in the city’s history, lurking just around the corner or inside that nondescript building. This book covers all the figures of crime, both forgotten and legendary, including Bill “the Butcher” Poole, Paul Kelly, Monk Eastman, “Lucky” Luciano, Carlo Gambino, Meyer Lansky, Mickey Spillane, and John Gotti. It also explores the neighborhoods they controlled across the five boroughs, including right here in our backyard – Queens County.

Each held sway over the New York neighborhoods that nurtured them and gave them power. As families and factions fought for control, the city became a backdrop for crime scenes, the rackets spreading after World War II to docks, airports, food markets, and garment districts. The streets of Brooklyn, swamps of Staten Island, and vacant lots near LaGuardia Airport hosted assassinations and hasty burials for the unlucky. The bloodlettings, arrests, and trials became front-page fodder for tabloids that thrived on covering Mulberry Street. Chinese, Russian, and Greek mobsters rose to prominence and wrought bloody havoc, as well. Each of the book’s five sections – one for each borough – traces criminal activity and area exploits from the 19th century to now. Everyone knows about Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, but now you can find Scarpato’s restaurant in Coney Island, where Joe Masseria was killed by the henchmen of Salvatore Maranzano, who in turn died in a Park Avenue office building at the hands of “Lucky” Luciano a few months later. From the Bronx to Brighton Beach, from New Springville to Ozone Park, here is a comprehensive, on-the-ground guide to mob life in the Rotten Apple.

Destefano is the author of three books on Italian organized crime, including Vinny Gorgeous, and a staff reporter for Newsday, covering legal affairs and criminal justice in New York City. Formerly a staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal and Fairchild News Service, he has appeared on Biography Channel programs as an expert on organized crime.

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