The mafia, of course, is a longstanding fixture in New York City. And New Jersey (see, On the Waterfront, The Sopranos). So as an immigrant from squeaky-clean Wisconsin, it's interesting to me to see to what extent that's still true. My impression is that there's not a lot of mob influence left, what with the racketeering laws and crackdowns starting in the 1970s. Of course, "not a lot" doesn't mean "none".
This week, in fact, there have been several mob stories in the news. The venerable Fulton St. Fish Market, in lower Manhattan, will soon be moving to the South Bronx, where land is cheaper and transportation is now easier. They built a swanky new fish market facility in the Hunts Point neighborhood with cool things like... air conditioning. You probably didn't want to know that all that great fresh New York City fish you've been eating was sitting in a sweltering hot warehouse for half a day before your restaurant got around to buying it... Anyway, back to the mob. The fish market is still at Fulton St. for now because a lawsuit alleges that the wholesale companies that unload the fish from the boats and sell them to retailers at the market are mobbed up. To the gills, no doubt. The city has investigated the wholesalers, and says that they're clean. More details in this NYT article (link valid just for a week, I think).
Also this week, a jury deadlocked on the racketeering, murder, etc., charges against John "Junior" Gotti, son of the late mob boss, John Gotti, aka "The Teflon Don". Gotti, Sr., after beating raps for years, was eventually convicted in 1992, and died in prison. Junior just got out of jail last year, but they found these new charges for him. He might well be out on bail very soon...
There was also an article in today's Times talking about a set of robberies from the early 1990s. A nice young couple decided that they would start robbing, uh, the mob. Right. They'd show up at a mafia social club, wave around a submachine gun, and take all the mobster's cash. They did that four or five times, embarassing the mob to no end, before they were whacked in their car while waiting for a red light in Queens. They finally charged the gunmen this week.
Speaking of the mob, but not in New York, I highly recommend a book called
I Heard You Paint Houses. It's the confessions of an ex enforcer in the corrupt Teamsters union of the 60s and 70s. He claims he personally shot Jimmy Hoffa, and has some hints about the conspiricy around the JFK assassination.