8 New York Mob Murder Scenes Then And Now
Grisly scenes from when John Gotti and Al Capone orchestrated hits on the streets of a violent New York that simply doesn’t exist anymore.
The first half of the 20th century was simply a different era, one in which mob hits were sometimes carried out almost as public spectacle, with a sense of theatrics, in places like restaurants, barber shops, and hotel lobbies. This sort of thing certainly didn’t happen all the time, but when it did, people undoubtedly took notice.
“That kind of hit was very rare,” said Lorcan Otway, director and curator of the Museum of the American Gangster in New York’s Lower East Side. “In organized crime, generally speaking, you were killed over money – you were almost certain you were killed by someone you knew. And quite a number of times it was by your best friend. It was a matter of you’d get in a car with your buddies, they’d drive off somewhere and shoot you. And until somebody put a bullet in your head you didn’t realize it was a problem.”
Still, these public mob hits did occur — and there are scores of stark crime scene photos that document this grisly era in pre-gentrification New York.
That Starbucks you walk by every day? You probably didn’t even realize that the head of Murder, Inc. was gunned down at that very locale back in 1957.
In fact, New York is filled with locations once home to macabre mob crime scenes. See some of the most notorious locations!
The Spot Bar And Grill
Around 1 am on Dec. 9, 1939, mob-affiliated longshoreman David “The Beetle” Beadle enter the Spot Bar and Grill at 46th St. and 10th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen. He had been out dancing with his wife, and his brothers and their spouses earlier that night but stopped by the restaurant for a glass of water to take a pill for his heart condition. This decision proved more deadly than any medical condition the mobster had.
Beadle took a few steps outside of the bar when a taxi pulled up and two men stepped out and fired away. Beadle received several bullets to the head and dropped dead on the sidewalk. The gunmen re-entered the cab and drove off. The gun used to fill Beadle with holes was found under a car a half a block away.
The scene of his grisly murder — carried out as part of a gangland turf war over control of the docks — was immortalized by crime scene photographers and remains a ghastly sight to this day.
Today, the location of Beadle’s murder is home to Mud Matters Pottery, which hosts classes for adults and kids.
“We’re living in very different times,” said Otway. “It’s visible that there’s been a change in organized crime – since [former mayor Rudolph] Giuliani. A major part of the dynamic has been gentrification.”
The Frankie Yale Murder
On July 1, 1928, in the now-quiet Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park, gangster Frankie Yale was shot to death while trying to drive away from gunmen pursuing him in another car.
Yale, who was Al Capone’s boss during the latter’s Brooklyn days, had begun stealing from his former protege, now a powerful Chicago gangster in his own right. With that, Yale’s fate was sealed.
On the day of his death, Yale received a troubling phone call from someone who told him that his wife had gotten into a problem at their home. With no questions asked, Yale immediately raced home to help.
Once he was inside his Lincoln coupe, four armed men inside a Buick sedan began tailing him.
The hired gunmen chased Yale through South Brooklyn and when they finally caught up to him, they rained bullets down on his car. Yale’s Lincoln had armor plating but the windows were not bulletproof and the sea of bullets killed him, causing him to slam his car into the steps of some unlucky person’s home at 923 44th St.
His protégé-turned-rival, Capone, was the number one suspect behind the murder, but no charges were ever filed against him.
Yale’s funeral was an over-the-top celebration. Thousands of people gathered in the Brooklyn streets to watch his $15,000 silver casket drive by and it took 38 cars to carry all of his flowers.
Sparks Steak House
Sparks Steak House at 210 East 46th St. has steaks to die for — literally. Such was the fate of Gambino family crime boss Paul “Big Paul” Castellanoand underboss Thomas Bilotti, who were gunned down near the restaurant’s entrance on Dec. 16, 1985.
The reason for their demise was none other than infamous mob boss John Gotti, then a Gambino underboss who ordered Castellano’s murder as part of a power grab.
By the mid-1980s, Castellano’s hold on the Gambino crime family began to weaken. When Neil Dellacroce, a well-liked leader in the Gambino family, died the reserved and reclusive Castellano chose not to attend his funeral. Gotti saw this opportunity to strike and convinced many members of the family to switch their loyalty from Castellano to himself.
The only thing left to do was get rid of Castellano once and for all.
Around 5 p.m. on the evening of the murder, Gotti sat in a Lincoln sedan with tinted windows parked across the street from Sparks and watched the murder. When Castellano’s car pulled up to Sparks, Gotti gave the order over a walkie-talkie.
Four gunmen wearing white trench coats and black Russian hats ran up to the car and blasted away. The gunmen hit Castellano six times and Bilotti four times as they exited their car. Once the hit was done, Gotti drove slowly past the bodies, taking one final look at his kill before making his exit onto Second Avenue and back to Brooklyn.
Gotti’s plan worked and with the deaths of Castellano and Bilotti, he became the new boss of the Gambino crime family.
Today, the legacy of the mob hit has attracted tourists to Sparks who apparently want to relive the mob magic.
The Park Sheraton Hotel
Feared Mafioso Albert Anastasia was a founder and leader of Murder, Inc., the New York underworld’s enforcement arm in the 1930s. Before that, Anastasia had helped Charles “Lucky” Luciano killed old-guard mob boss Joe Masseria and thus help found the modern New York Mafia as we know it.
And for a man who made his career on murder, Anastasia fittingly saw his own life end in murder as well. On the morning of Oct. 25, 1957, Anastasia was chauffeured from his mansion in Fort Lee, N.J. to his barber at the Park Sheraton Hotel at 870 7th Ave. in Manhattan.
As Anastasia sat in the barber’s chair, two men with scarves covering their faces rushed in and shoved the barber out of the way. The gunmen then proceeded to fire away, firing ten shots total with one deadly bullet hitting Anastasia’s head.
After the hail of bullets, Anastasia tried to lunge at his assassins. But in his disoriented state, he’d actually lunged at the gunmen’s reflections in the mirror on the barbershop wall. The gunmen then kept firing until the man behind Murder, Inc. lay dead on the floor — roughly where, today, you can enjoy a nice caramel macchiato and a scone.
The two men who gunned him down were rival mobsters but their exact identities’ remain unknown to this day. His death had a lasting impact in the entire current and future New York mob scene.
Shortly after his death, the heads of the crime organizations met to discuss the future of the mafia empire. The meeting resulted in Vito Genovese becoming the boss, and the FBI seeing them as a serious lethal organization.
‘O Sole Mio
Weegee once later recounted that he “had so many unsold murder pictures lying around my room…I felt as if I were renting out a wing of the city morgue.”
One such murder is the slaying of this unidentified man in what was likely a mob hit carried out near the ‘O Sole Mio restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy circa 1939.
Currently, at the old locale of ‘O Sole Mio, tourists can buy “I Heart NY” gifts and T-shirts. But what they might not know, as they purchase discount souvenirs for their loved ones, is that in the late 1930s, a grisly murder took place right there, and a bloody corpse was left laying on the curbside.
The John Masseria Murder
The area surrounding this stretch of 19th St. in Manhattan may be well-developed and pleasant-looking today, but it was once home to a particularly brazen mob murder.
On June 22, 1937, it was here that unidentified mob killers took down John Masseria right in the street. John was a gambler and he had been shot through the heart when he refused to pay a debt he owed after losing a bet.
John was the brother of Joseph “Joe the Boss” Masseria, himself had been killed by Charles “Lucky” Luciano’s gunmen as part of the latter’s power grab six years earlier. Eventually, John followed in his brother’s bloody footsteps (although the details remain clear and some sources identify the location of the hit as 10th St.).
Umberto’s Clam House
Just two months after Umberto’s Clam House opened at 129 Mulberry St. in Little Italy, mobster “Crazy” Joe Gallo was shot and killed while seated at a table in the back corner.
Gallo was a mobster in the Profaci crime family in New York City who got into a life of crime early. After he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he earned his unsettling nickname.
He rose quickly through the ranks and after a particularly brutal takedown of a rival family head, Gallo expected a hefty reward. He was not given the reward and so he began to plot his revenge against Joe Profaci, the head of the family.
Profaci caught wind of Gallo’s plot so he decided to take care of his disgruntled subordinate and authorized a hit on him.
It was April 7, 1972 and Gallo had come to the restaurant to celebrate his birthday with his wife, sister, and daughter. He didn’t notice that an associate of a rival mob family was seated at the bar and, upon seeing Gallo, walked to a nearby hangout to recruit gunmen to kill Gallo then and there.
“The idea of him being shot in front of his family and in Little Italy was extraordinary shocking,” said Otway. “The nature of his execution was a message.”
Gallo and his family were sitting down at their table in blissful ignorance when four gunmen entered the room, guns in hand. The men opened fire just as Gallo stood up and pulled out his own gun to fire back.
Thinking fast, Gallo knocked a table on its side and used it as a shield while he inched closer to the door, likely hoping to draw fire away from his family.
The hitmen discharged 20 rounds total and a bloody and bullet-riddled Gallo managed to stagger to the sidewalk before collapsing outside of the restaurant. The gunmen fled the scene leaving a mortally wounded Gallo lying on the ground for police to see.
At her brother’s funeral three days later, Gallo’s sister issued an ominous warning, saying, “The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey.”
Not long after the shooting, the blood-stained sidewalk was cleaned and Umberto’s was soon open again for business — as if the whole thing never happened.
Joe & Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant
On July 12, 1979, Bonanno family boss Carmine Galante was eating on the private back patio at Joe & Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant at 205 Knickerbocker Ave. in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
At the time of his final meal, Galante, who had been the head of the Bonanno family for five years, was embroiled in a tense series of power plays between the five families of the New York City mafia.
The Brooklyn restaurant was a dining hotspot for mob members, but Galante wasn’t worried about a potential attack from a rival family. He was even quoted saying, “No one would ever kill me, they wouldn’t dare.”
A distant relative of Galante’s own Joe & Mary’s and he, and his two bodyguards, gathered at the restaurant to say goodbye to a relative who was going on vacation. The men had just finished eating their meal so Galante lit a cigar.
Suddenly, at roughly 2:45 PM, three men in ski masks rushed inside the restaurant and riddled Galante with bullets and shotgun blasts before fleeing the scene. Galante and two other men were killed in the barrage of bullets. His two bodyguards did nothing to protect him in the attack and afterward, they just left the restaurant.
The hit had been carried out so quickly and efficiently that Galante’s cigar was still clenched between his teeth when the police arrived on the murder scene. When reporters arrived, their cameras caught Galante’s body being removed from the restaurant under a sign that read, “We Give Special Attention to Outgoing Orders.”
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