On a cloudy day in 1913, all but two of the members of the Musica family from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn stood on a pier in New Orleans, waiting to board a steamer to Honduras by way of Panama. To anyone watching, the family was large, but unremarkable; two aging parents, and their adult and younger children. The parents were from the Old Country, speaking rapid Italian while admonishing their younger children. The oldest son and daughter, in their 20s, were the standouts; dressed in stylish and expensive clothes, the picture of wealth and success. Around them were the trunks and boxes containing the family’s possessions, ready to be loaded onto the ship. This did not look like a family on a vacation, these people looked as if they were leaving for good. And they were; the Musica family was on the run, and the law was hot on their trail.
Part One of this story will give you the background on the early life of Philip Musica. He was born Filippo Musica in Italy, the eldest son of a barber named Antonio and his wife, Marie. The three immigrated to New York when Filippo was a child, and he grew up in the tenements of Little Italy. His father opened a barbershop, and later, a grocery store, and it was there that young Filippo became Phillip, striving to achieve the American Dream. By the time he was a teenager, he had dropped out of school to run the store, and had branched out into importing. He was bringing in shipments of Italian cheeses, olive oil, pasta and other specialty provisions, and his father’s shop soon became one of the most profitable Italian importers in New York.
This three-bedroom house for rent in Bay Ridge seems perfect for a family. The 1,400-square-foot home looks to have been built in the ’30s or ’40s and has a roof deck, garage and finished basement with a separate entrance and a second bath. The living and dining areas are separate and look pretty spacious, and there’s a washer/dryer and dishwasher. It’s across the street from John Paul Jones Park, next to the Verrazano Bridge, and only a few blocks from the Fort Hamilton Army Base. If you’re relying on the subway, the R train is about seven blocks away at 95th Street. Do you think it’ll rent for $3,300 a month?
Financial scandals, con games and ripoffs have been news since the invention of greed; so they’ve been around a long time. As our media and the 24-hour news cycle brings us news more quickly, every big Ponzi scheme, every large stock manipulation, every case of massive embezzlement brings headlines as the “scandal of the year/decade/century.” There have certainly been some doozies; Bernie Madoff being the one most people remember recently, but he certainly wasn’t the first, or even the most ambitious con artist we’ve seen. His profit may have been higher because of the times we live in, but he came from a long line of very smart, ambitious and audacious takers.
One of the greatest entries in the Con Man Hall of Fame has to be a man named F. Donald Coster. His great scandal of the century broke in 1938, here in New York City in the middle of the Great Depression. But Coster wasn’t his real name, and names are very much a part of this story. His family name was really “Musica,” and he and his family were a well-tuned chamber ensemble of white-collar crime that went back well before 1938. Here’s their story.
Comment: Three out of four sold, with a jump in price for the Park Slope house.
Open House Picks 6/13/2014 [Brownstoner]
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row houses
Address: 9401-9421, 9402-9420 Wogan Terrace
Cross Streets: Off 94th Street, between 5th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge
Year Built: 1927-28
Architectural Style: Neo-Tudor cottages
The story: Bay Ridge is full of little cul-de-sacs, one block streets and alleyways. A few of them are remnants of old streets cut off by more recent development, or by the highways and parkways that run through the neighborhood. Some, like Wogan Terrace, were created by developers who built this neighborhood up in the teens, twenties and even later. A friend of mine, a long-time Brownstoner reader, brought this block to my attention. And what a find it is.
Prominent journalists Gay Talese and Sam Roberts are coming to the Transit Museum this Thursday to discuss the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which turns 50 next week, and Talese’s book, “The Bridge.” Published in 1964, Talese’s work explores the bridge’s construction, engineering, and the political drama that played out in Bay Ridge before ground was even broken for the 13,700-foot-long structure.
Before construction began, 5,000 homes and businesses had to be demolished, and Talese, then a reporter for the Times, covered residents’ impassioned protests against the bridge. Joe Spratt, an ironworker whose grandfather helped build the Verrazano, will join Talese and Roberts for the discussion. The talk will take place on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Transit Museum, and tickets are free.
Photo via the Transit Museum, Courtesy of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Archive
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
When we look at New York City’s beautiful harbor, it’s hard to remember that this great seaport city needed defending. All of the city’s boroughs once held fortifications that were necessary to protect the harbor and the city from invading forces. Some of those fortifications were necessary and active, if not in our lifetimes, then certainly in most of our parents’ lifetimes.
After America gained its independence from Great Britain, we had a few rocky decades getting started. Our ability to trade through shipping was one of the great successes of the new nation, and that was one of the many factors that led to the War of 1812. We were trading partners with France, which was at war with England at the time. We also had a merchant navy with a lot of former British sailors, who had become Americans. England needed sailors for their navy, did not recognize the change of nationality and allegiance, and wanted them back. They raided ships and took them. There were plenty of other reasons for the war, as well.
This unusual 40-foot-wide brownstone in Bay Ridge has a rental over a duplex, all with over-the-top original and new details. The bathrooms, for example, are lined in onyx and marble. There are three cast-iron stoves, a sauna, and original Minton style tiles on the mantels.
The mechanicals were upgraded in 2009. And although it has a center hall stair, because of the width of the house, all the levels are private.
It was an Open House Pick in June, and the ask is $1,599,000. Has anyone seen it in person?
On the face of it, $779,000 is a nice price for a one-family townhouse in move-in condition in Bay Ridge. Plus, 475 Bay Ridge Parkway is also cute, and there’s parking. Problem is, the house is tiny. It’s only two rooms deep and the ground floor has been given over to the garage. Though one could park in the front yard and use the garage for storage, as the listing suggests. The listing looks really good online, but we’re wondering if there is enough house here to justify the ask?