Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Gotham Unbound

Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated From the Grip of Organized Crime

JAMES B. JACOBS
Coleen Friel
Robert Radick
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg6d8
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Gotham Unbound
    Book Description:

    Cosa Nostra. Organized crime. The Mob. Call it what you like, no other crime group has infiltrated labor unions and manipulated legitimate industries like Italian organized crime families. One cannot understand the history and political economy of New York City-or most other major American cities-in the 20th century without focusing on the role of organized crime in the urban power structure. Gotham Unbound demonstrates the remarkable range of Cosa Nostra's activities and influence and convincingly argues that 20th century organized crime has been no minor annoyance at the periphery of society but a major force in the core economy, acting as a power broker, even as an alternative government in many sectors of the urban economy.James B. Jacobs presents the first comprehensive account of the ways in which the Cosa Nostra infiltrated key sectors of New York City's legitimate economic life and how this came over the years to be accepted as inevitable, in some cases even beneficial. The first half of Gotham Unbound is devoted to the ways organized crime became entrenched in six economic sectors and institutions of the city-the garment district, Fulton Fish Market, freight at JFK airport, construction, the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and the waste-hauling industry. The second half compellingly documents the campaign to purge the mob from unions, industries, and economic sectors, focusing on the unrelenting law enforcement efforts and the central role of Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral administration in devising innovative regulatory strategies to combat the mob.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3796-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    James B. Jacobs
  4. 1 An Introduction to the Place and the Players
    (pp. 1-10)

    Cosa nostra is the largest, most sophisticated, most powerful, and most remarkable crime syndicate in the history of the United States. For reasons that this book makes clear, it is unlikely that any other crime syndicate, at least in the foreseeable future, will play anything like the role that Cosa Nostra has played in our nation’s social, economic, and political life. Yet, for reasons this book also makes clear, Cosa Nostra’s survival into the next millennium, in anything like its twentieth-century form, can be seriously doubted.

    This book deals with Cosa Nostra’s entrenchment in New York City’s economy and with...

  5. I The “Mobbing-Up” of New York City

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 11-14)

      Part 1 consists of seven chapters. Chapters 2 through 7 each explain how Cosa Nostra infiltrated, wielded power in, and profited from a particular industry. Chapter 8 generalizes from the chapters that precede it and draws conclusions about Cosa Nostra’s industrial racketeering.

      We do not mean to leave the impression that the six industries are the only industries in New York City that have been infected with moborchestrated racketeering. Over the course of the twentieth century, Cosa Nostra has extended its tentacles into dozens of New York City–area industries. A 1930s investigation of organized crime in New York found...

    • 2 A Cosa Nostra Outfit: Seven Decades of Mob Rule in the Garment District
      (pp. 15-32)

      Since the second half of the nineteenth century, the garment industry has been an important component of New York City’s economy. The “needle trades” played a crucial role in absorbing millions of immigrants over the past century and a half. While tens of thousands of immigrants labored in sweatshops for minimal pay, many of them viewed employment in the Garment District as an opportunity to settle into American society and pursue entrepreneurial ambitions. Over time, the ethnic makeup of the workforce changed: in the 1840s, Irish and German workers dominated the garment trade; by the mid-nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants from...

    • 3 Fishy Business: The Mafia and the Fulton Fish Market
      (pp. 33-47)

      The Fulton Fish Market is the oldest and largest wholesale fish market in the United States. It was organized in 1833 to serve fishing fleets on the East River near Fulton Street. However, as early as 1924, some suppliers were trucking seafood to the market. Today, no seafood is delivered directly by ship; rather, refrigerated trucks bring seafood from around the world to the market in boxes of one hundred pounds or less, some of which is flown in from abroad. The market runs from 10:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., Sunday through Friday. It consists of approximately seventy “stalls”—storefronts...

    • 4 The Taking of John F. Kennedy Airport
      (pp. 48-64)

      John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport), which opened as Idlewild Airport in 1948,³ is located in southeastern Queens on the shores of Jamaica Bay, fifteen miles from the center of Manhattan. In 1993, it accounted for roughly 30 percent of the total value and tonnage of air cargo imported into the United States and for roughly 24–31 percent of the total value and tonnage of exported cargo.⁴ “A city unto itself,”⁵ JFK Airport’s five thousand acres contain runways, terminal buildings, hangars, warehouses, high-security storage vaults, container stations, and truck depots. The Airport employs more than forty thousand people...

    • 5 Exhibiting Corruption: The Javits Convention Center
      (pp. 65-79)

      In 1969, New York Mayor John Lindsay proposed a new exhibition and convention center to replace the New York Coliseum. The mayor and other proponents promised that a new center would compete more successfully for national trade shows and would stimulate New York City’s economy by creating employment and business opportunities. Another benefit would be revitalization of the rundown site consisting of twenty-six acres stretching between 11th and 12th Avenues and from 34th and 39th Streets on Manhattan’s west side.

      Plans for the 1.8-million-square-foot Convention Center, which was later named for the popular former Republican U.S. Senator, won legislative approval...

    • 6 Carting Away a Fortune: Cosa Nostra and the Waste-Hauling Industry
      (pp. 80-95)

      New York City residences and businesses produce thirteen thousand tons of trash every day, not including the debris generated by construction projects.¹ Once generated, trash undergoes a two-step process: collection and disposal. Collection is generally a separate industry from disposal; disposal involves providing a final resting place for trash, such as a landfill or incinerator.² In New York City, the Department of Sanitation collects residential waste. Commercial-waste hauling—that is, collection—the focus of this chapter, is carried out by approximately three hundred small firms (one to twenty trucks) that together constitute a $1.5 billion per year industry.³ The drivers...

    • 7 Building a Cosa Nostra Fiefdom: The Construction Industry
      (pp. 96-115)

      The New York City construction industry is an entire sector of the urban economy, comprising numerous subindustries such as demolition, concrete, rebar, plumbing, drywall, and masonry. It is much greater in scale than the other industries we are examining. Moreover, unlike the other industries, it is not geographically fixed but rather does business everywhere in the city. There are thousands of construction projects at any point in time, ranging from small renovations to massive public works and skyscrapers. For most of the twentieth century, Cosa Nostra has been entrenched in this multibillion-dollar industry.

      The New York City construction industry is...

    • 8 Conclusion to Part I
      (pp. 116-128)

      This chapter draws some general observations from the case studies in chapters 2 through 7. We deal first with the light those chapters shed on the nature of Cosa Nostra as a crime syndicate, then on lessons that can be drawn concerning Cosa Nostra’s industrial racketeering, and finally on implications for our understanding of the twentieth-century urban political economy.

      The image of Cosa Nostra as racked by interfamily conflict over territory and control of rackets does not conform with reality.² While there was significant gangland warfare in the 1930s and 1940s, after World War II the relationship among the five...

  6. II The Liberation of New York City

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 129-134)

      Part 2 documents federal, state, and local law enforcement’s and New York City government’s extraordinary attack on Cosa Nostra’s industrial racketeering that, by the end of the twentieth century, has ended or seriously threatened Cosa Nostra’s influence and control in the industries we examined in Part 1. We tell the story as a tale of industry-by-industry liberation, thereby keeping the focus on New York City’s economy. But the story could be told differently, for example, as the last (or perhaps penultimate) chapter in the history of Cosa Nostra or as a chapter in the history of federal, state, and local...

    • 9 Liberating the Garment District
      (pp. 135-145)

      Cosa nostra was entrenched in the New York City garment industry since the 1920s. The mob was able to establish and police a trucking cartel by controlling the Master Truckmen of America, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 102, and the Greater Blouse, Skirt, and Undergarment Association. The cartel consisted of trucking companies owned or controlled by members of Cosa Nostra families. Through the property-rights system and fixed prices, cartel members derived enormous profits. Prior to the 1990s, government efforts to purge the mob from the garment industry had failed to make much of an impression.

      The Department of...

    • 10 Freeing the Fulton Fish Market
      (pp. 146-163)

      Cosa nostra has been entrenched at the Fulton Fish Market since the 1920s. Through its control of Local 359 of the United Seafood Workers, Smoked Fish and Cannery Union, the Genovese family ran a protection racket and forced wholesalers to rent union signs and contribute to a Christmas fund. Some members of the Genovese and Bonanno crime families owned unloading and loading companies that operated as cartels that limited competition and fixed prices. Although the market is located on city property, loading companies paid nominal rent, if any, and profited from parking fees. The Department of Ports and Trade which...

    • 11 Purging the Mob from John F. Kennedy Airport
      (pp. 164-175)

      Almost from the date of its opening, JFK Airport’s cargo operations served, in the words of Henry Hill, as a “candy store” for the mob. The Luccheses were the dominant organized-crime family at the airport; their power base was the two International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) locals whose histories are inextricably linked to organized crime, IBT Local 295 and IBT Local 851. The mob used these unions to extract payoffs from freight-forwarding companies seeking labor peace and avoidance of burdensome contract provisions. Lead agents, handpicked by Cosa Nostra, facilitated profitable truck give-ups and hijackings. Cosa Nostra also policed a trucking...

    • 12 Ridding the Javits Convention Center of Organized Crime
      (pp. 176-189)

      From the moment construction began, the Javits Convention Center served as a profit center for the mob. Cosa Nostra’s influence was rooted in its control over the unions that represented center workers. The Genovese family’s control over the Carpenters union allowed the mob to manipulate the job referral system and place friends and associates in high-paying or no-show jobs. IBT Local 807, led by Robert Rabbitt Sr. and his sons Michael and Robert Jr., also placed many known Cosa Nostra associates in high-paying center positions. Officials of Local 829 of the Exhibition Employees Union padded employers’ payrolls with ghost employees,...

    • 13 Defeating Cosa Nostra in the Waste-Hauling Industry
      (pp. 190-205)

      The new york city metropolitan area waste-hauling industry was, into the 1990s, dominated by two powerful Cosa Nostra–led cartels, one on Long Island and one in New York City. The cartels enforced a property-rights system through economic coercion, and threats to property and person. The cartels were policed by the Lucchese and Gambino crime families, which controlled the trade associations and unions. Lucchese capo Salvatore Avellino controlled the Long Island cartel through the Private Sanitation Industry Association of Nassau/ Suffolk. The Association of Trade Waste Removers of Greater New York, the largest carting employers association in New York City,...

    • 14 Cleansing the Construction Industry
      (pp. 206-222)

      The italian american organized-crime families have been prominent in the New York City construction industry since the 1930s. In the mid-1980s, their influence and power was certainly at or near its pinnacle. Their most important power base was the construction union locals affiliated with the Teamsters, Carpenters, Masons, Laborers, and Plasterers unions. Control of the unions enabled the Cosa Nostra families to solicit bribes, extort contractors, and place members, associates, and relatives in bona fide and no-show jobs with contractors and suppliers; to take ownership interests in contracting and supply firms; and to set up and police cartels in a...

    • 15 Conclusion to Part II
      (pp. 223-234)

      The successful purging of Cosa Nostra groups from New York City’s core economy was not accomplished simply by applying “more of the same” law enforcement medicine that had been administered in previous decades. Success depended upon major innovations and “institution building” in organized-crime control. The introduction to Part 2 briefly sketched the evolution of the federal organized-crime control program. In this chapter we highlight and assess the organized-crime control innovations that have had the greatest impact on industrial racketeering.

      Traditionally, the only approach to organized-crime control was criminal prosecutions that aimed to send mobsters to prison for lengthy terms. Unfortunately,...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 235-288)
  8. Glossary of Names
    (pp. 289-306)
  9. List of Indictments and Judicial Decisions
    (pp. 307-310)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 311-314)
  11. Index
    (pp. 315-328)
  12. About the Authors
    (pp. 329-330)