Closing Bell: Gangster Walking Tour of Red Hook

the-mad-ones-book-cover.jpgThis isn’t your regular walking tour. Presented by Freebird Books, Tom Folsom, author of The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld, will lead the tour over the classic Gallo turf where you can “relive the infamy of gangster-era Red Hook and the life and times of beatnik mobster Joey Gallo.” Meet in front of Carroll Park this Saturday, May 9th at 1 p.m. This event is free and open to the public but please RSVP by calling 718-643-8484 or emailing

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  • This tour is for those who want to have a romantic vision of Red Hook and the mafia, but know nothing about it. I was born in Red Hook, and the Capo di Capo was Albert Anastasia, who was as ruthless and as violent as they came. He was, however, popular among the longshoremen, because he organized the waterfront. In particular, he stopped the Irish gangs from shaking down the longshoremen, who were heavily Italian. You would not believe what used to go on in Red Hook. For instance, one time the police tried to make a raid on the Long Pier, at the foot of Columbia Street, using the mounted patrol. Anstasia and his crew were tipped off, and placed long nails at the entrance to the pier, to injure and stop the horses. This is just an example of how ruthless his gang was.

    If you really want a glimpse into what went on in the waterfront, I would recommend the classic movie “On the Waterfront”.

    As for Joey Gallo (who was my mom’s schoolmate!), he was a relatively minor player, though he did come from Red Hook.

  • According to Petebrooklyn, its all fantasy…no Mob in Red Hook, no.

  • Benson, I knew you’d have some perspective on this. I imagine Mr Anastasia did indeed stop the Irish gangs “from shaking down the longshoremen, who were heavily Italian” and then probably took over the shakedowns himself!

  • East NY;

    Exactly right! Basically, the shakedowns became part of his operation (and by extension, the ILA, which he controlled).

    My father likes to tell me the story of a time he and his buddies were eating in some joint in Red Hook. They saw that Anastasia and his boys were holding court there. When they were leaving the place, they decided to have a little fun, and got on their hands and knees and started to crawl out of the place (to pretend they were ducking bullets). Anastasia’s crew was not amused. They went over to my father and told him “knock it off”. My father didn’t say a word, got straight up, and walked briskly out. That was his closest encounter with Anastasia.

  • “Anastasia’s crew was not amused. They went over to my father and told him “knock it off”.”

    HA! Good one by your Dad and the other guys. Yeah, gangsters like to joke with each other, but not “civilians.” Growing up in East New York in the 1960s and 1970s, there were still a lot of the Luchese/Henry Hill mobsters around, and we would encounter them from time to time. They were surprisingly nice to us young black kids – I guess they figured that anyone who lived in a no man’s land like ENY was OK. But I remember one time one of my friends pissed one of them off and the guy in no uncertain terms told him not to let him catch him in the area again. It got kind of scary fast.

  • Benson, our very old school neighbor tells us “Don Cheech” used to live in our house… says he was the guy murdered at the fruit market as depicted in Godfather 2. Every time I dig in the back garden I wonder what I am going to turn up….

  • ok – now this is something i would be interested in
    very cool!!!!

  • uh…Don Cheech never leaves Italy in the movie and its the Godfather himself who was shot while buying fruit.

  • Well, we are talking about the real world as opposed to the movies, and if you read about Don Cheech he lived in Red Hook and was Anastasia’s right hand man for a while. And was shot in the Bronx.

  • Benson, I’ve read a copy of the book, and it’s whole angle is that Joey and his brothers were upstarts revolting against the bosses like Anastasia (and later Profaci and Colombo). The story takes place mostly after Anastasia’s murder (which the Gallos may have carried out). The book is written in that spirit–not that they were the rulers–but rather they were outsiders looking to get in. Frustrated by the old ways of the Commission, Joey found solace among his kindred revolutionary and artistic spirits in the Village. The book’s a lot of fun–should check it out. Brooklyn guys like Pete Hamill and many others weigh in.

  • ParkSlopeRF;

    OK, that’s more like it. I will read the book then.

    I wonder if the book touches on one of the real reasons Gallo was rubbed out: he was trying to bring black gangs into the system, which was a big no-no to the old-timers.

    By the way, there is still a remnant of the old Gallo gang that hangs out on a restaurant on Columbia St. (I won’t say which ;-).

  • Folsom did a decent for a small book and he gets credit for having a pretty good sense of Brooklyn geography, which most people who write Brooklyn books do not. (Lawrence Bergreen’s terrible Capone bio is one example; Rich Cohen’s superficial but interesting “Tough Jews” is another.) That said, Folsom is somewhat romantic and for my taste, has a too neat view of the forces at play in Brooklyn: crime, labor, law and the overlap between the three.

    I’d still welcome a serious book about Anthony and Albert A. but I’m afraid it will be a long time before we get one.

    Benson, I’m not a fan of “On The Waterfront,” which I think is overacted and hokey compared to other, darker crime movies of the time. Have you ever had a chance to see the original journalism “OTW” was based on? Worth the effort to find it if you have an interest in the period.

  • NostrandSally;

    I am vaguely aware of the journalism that was behind OTW, but never studied it in detail. Thanks for the tip.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree about OTW. I like it, for what it is. Note that I used the word “glimpse” when it comes to its probe into the waterfront. I can tell you that the film had a real impact at the time: people were genuinely shocked at what they saw, and there was a demand for action. I believe it was a catalyst for the formation of the Waterfront Comission.

    In general, I am a big fan of Kazan’s work.