Tag Archives: Cosa Nostra

‘They Gotta Go’: Gravano on the Castellano Hit

Gambino family boss Paul Castellano had a problem: he couldn’t get hot water in his shower. The mansion he had built on Staten Island’s Todt Hill was so large that water cooled in the pipes before it could reach the bathroom.

The contractor he got to help him was a rising star in the Gambino family: Salvatore Gravano. Gravano had his men wrap heating coils around the pipes, and the problem was fixed.

Castellano couldn’t have known that the man who fixed his shower would one day murder him.

On this fascinating episode of the Our Thing podcast, Gravano breaks down how the notorious murder of Castellano, the most high profile crime boss in the country, happened. Castellano would be killed outside the exclusive Sparks Steakhouse on Manhattan’s 46th Street. The hit was planned meticulously for months and the shooters even obtained walkie talkies to communicate outside Sparks.

As the day of the murder approached, Gravano and Gambino consigliere Frankie DeCicco hid in the maid’s quarters of an associate’s home in Staten Island, practically under Castellano’s nose. And their scheming went beyond killing Castellano. Should John Gotti, who would become boss after the hit, not cooperate with them, they would kill him as well.

“This is a do or die hit.”

Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano

On December 16, 1985, a group of men in white jackets and distinctive fur hats began to approach Sparks. Castellano and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, pulled within a few feet of Gotti and Gravano on the narrow Manhattan streets. But they never noticed Gotti or Gravano, who directed the hit and was also there as a backup shooter.

Uniforms, radio communications, reserve forces: the hit had a military precision. Castellano and Bilotti were quickly shot to death, making John Gotti the boss of the Gambino family.

In this podcast, Gravano portrays Gotti as a reckless loudmouth, even as the late Gotti no longer has any chance to defend himself. It’s hard to know how accurate his account is, but it’s certainly entertaining!

More on the mafia:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

HOFFA MURDER SUSPECT TONY PRO’S UNION HALL

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

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Hoffa Murder Suspect Tony Pro’s Union Hall

On July 30, 1975, James R. Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, disappeared without a trace. In 1982, he was declared dead. No body has ever been found.

A prime suspect in that disappearance was Teamsters Local 560 President Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano. In fact, Hoffa was actually on the way to meet Tony Pro when he disappeared.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

A member of the Genovese crime family, Tony Pro ruled Local 560 with an iron fist. Anyone who opposed him had a way of winding up dead.

Tony Pro’s union hall

Hoffa and Provenzano’s beef seems to date from prison. Whether Tony Pro had other reasons for wanting Hoffa dead isn’t known.

Today, I went in search of the remains of this history. Tony Pro’s Local 560 Union Hall is in Union City, NJ, a town that was once heavily Italian but is now mostly Hispanic. Though it has changed since Tony Pro’s day, its working class roots are very much intact. Nearby are Tonnelle Avenue and the Lincoln Tunnel, where many of Local 560’s members drive their trucks every day.

Looking at the door to the union hall, I imagined a small, bespectacled man leaving at the end of the day with a sheaf of papers. Who would think he had the power that he did?

Tony Pro’s habit of disappearing anyone who got in his way eventually caught up with him when he had the local’s treasurer, Anthony Castellito, murdered at his country home in the Catskills. Like Hoffa’s, his body was never found. But years later, an informant tipped the FBI to Tony Pro’s involvement, and Tony went to federal prison, where he died in 1988 of heart failure.

More on the mafia in New Jersey:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

BADA BING’S REAL-LIFE MOB CONNECTIONS

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

The Real Barone Sanitation from The Sopranos

A German Shepherd barks viciously and strains at his chain. A red Tahoe pulls up to a a large industrial building. The sky is grey. A hulking man steps out.

This is Barone Sanitation, which featured prominently in The Sopranos as a front for Tony’s illicit interests. In one my favorite episodes from season 2, facing increasing police scrutiny, Tony decamps from Bada Bing to Barone to appear to be a legitimate businessman.

I love this episode because it shows this larger than life character suddenly thrust into the world most of the viewers inhabit: the bland corporate office. Tony struggles in this world as we would struggle in his, bored and spending his time drawing fish and making basketball pools.

I went in search of this iconic spot yesterday. Beginning down a remote dead end street in Jersey City, NJ, I encountered a large German Shepherd barking at me behind a fence. Reality and fiction seemed to meld for a moment.

Near the end of this street is the spot a great Sopranos locations website claims was the real Barone Sanitation, but looking at the building, it doesn’t seem to match. Here is Barone in season 2:

And here is Cinelli Scrap Metal, the location the website points to:

I think a more likely candidate is actually the building across the street. Surrounded by dumpsters, it does appear to be a garbage company, and the building looks similar, down to the large bays on the right side:

However, the windows appear to be gone. It’s possible they were removed in the 21 years since the episode aired. Or perhaps the real Barone Sanitation is yet to be found?

In any event, the bleak industrial landscape seemed a dead ringer for Barone’s depiction in the series. I could almost imagine Tony driving down the street.

On the way back, I came across a much more famous sight, which is visible in the opening credits: the Wilson Carpet man! Like many New Jerseyans, I had seen it before, but only from the road. This time, I got an opportunity to walk up and take a picture with this New Jersey celebrity!

An interesting tidbit: I noticed a stone at the base of the statue says “America #1, love it or leave it.” I don’t know what that has to do with carpets, but it did seem somehow appropriate on Memorial Day.

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

This is Where New York Ambushed Tony Soprano’s Right Hand Man

“Gerry warned you Eli!”

Dim streetlights reflect off wet pavement. In the background, a red neon sign flickers out. “Kay’s Spring Garden.” As Hesh Rabkin and his son-in-law Eli prepare to head home, a black Lexus suddenly pulls in front of them. In an instant, they’re surrounded by thugs banging on the car. Finally, a burning rag inserted into the fuel tank gets them out of the car, desperate to save their own lives.

This classic scene in season 6 of The Sopranos ended with Eli in the hospital with severe injuries and after Gerry Torciano’s men attacked him for poaching Torciano’s loansharking customers. Even Hesh, Tony’s long-time confidant and business partner, got roughed up.

This scene was filmed on Congress Street just off Central Avenue in Jersey City’s Heights neighborhood. I actually lived just 4 blocks away for two years. So what is this location like in real life?

Kay’s Spring Garden is a real Chinese restaurant. I actually went past a couple of weeks ago, and it still looked exactly the same as it did in this Sopranos episode from 2006. It sits on Central Avenue, the main commercial street of Jersey City Heights. The stores on either side are different now: the flower shop has become a realtor, and Goehrig’s Bakery, long vacant, has become a high end cupcake shop.

The Heights has historically been a neighborhood of immigrants. First the Germans, then Jews and Italians, and now Hispanic people, often from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. When I moved there in 2015, it was just beginning to gentrify. Today, it’s a mix of immigrants and young professionals.

Central Avenue is a charming street that I still love to walk down, even though I no longer live in the neighborhood. The bustle, the cute, family-run stores selling delicious food, the ambience, it can’t be beat!

The way the neighborhood looks at night in The Sopranos is very accurate to reality. It’s dark, quiet, and deserted. You don’t see many people around. Until a black Lexus pulls in front of you…

For more on The Sopranos and entertainment, check out these posts:

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