The Mob and the City
The book you are about to read is an important contribution to New York City history and, given New York's importance, to the urban history of the United States. I take much delight in it because Alex Hortis was my student and coauthor at New York University School of Law in the late 1990s.
    Much has been written about the Mafia and about New York City's Mafia families. However, Hortis shows that much of what has been written is wrong. Perhaps the greatest contribution of this highly readable tome is its debunking of many Mafia myths, for example, that Mafia members did not deal in drugs and did not inform on one another. His revisionist history of the so-called Castellammarese War is one of the most impressive achievements of this meticulous primary-source-based history.
    In attempting to integrate New York City's Mafia history with the city's demographic, social, economic, and political history, Hortis is absolutely on the right track. He begins by showing that the evolution of the Mafia in New York is very much a story of ethnic succession. The Italians did not invent organized crime, but they brought it to a new level. Italian immigration followed both Jewish and Irish immigration, and Italians followed both of those groups into rackets like drugs, gambling, and labor racketeering. But the Italian mobsters were not nearly as monolithic and ethnocentric as other writers have assumed. Their intra- and intergroup relations were complex and important. Their ability to forge coalitions and overcome factionalism was utterly necessary for their remarkable successes.
    Hortis presents a fascinating look at Mafia members’ social lives, particularly their participation in New York's nightlife at the most famous nightclubs like the Copacabana (owned by Frank Costello), where they rubbed shoulders with famous sports figures, entertainers, businessmen, and politicians. People went to the Copa to meet and be seen with the Mafia bosses; this tells us much about how Mafia members were regarded by and integrated with the city'selite. Also fascinating and new (at least to me) are Hortis's accounts of Mafia members’ ownership of gay bars and clubs and the participation of some mobsters in the gay scene.
    The Mafia carried on the role of its Jewish and Irish predecessors, connecting the underworld (especially the world of vice) with the upperworld (business and labor). Hortis does a great job documenting and explaining how Italian-American organized crime members infiltrated or strong-armed their way into many New York City union locals. They used labor power to attract employer bribes or to extort employer payoffs. They then leveraged their union power to create and police employer cartels. And they took business interests in many companies that participated in the racketeer-ridden industries. The history of New York City's economy, especially in construction, seaborne and airborne cargo, and wholesale food markets is thoroughly permeated by the influence of the Mafia.
    Hortis also provides some tantalizing clues as to the influence of the Mafia in politics. There is no question about the fact that the Mafia was highly integrated into Tammany Hall. Mob bosses contributed money and other forms of support to their favored politicians. In return, they obtained a good deal of immunity from interference with their illegal activities. Even after the demise of Tammany, mob bosses continued to be power brokers who exercised influence over politicians and political events. Much of their power stemmed from their positions in the unions.
    The beginning of the Mafia's decline can be traced back to the early 1970s. After the 1972 death of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI reinvented itself, changing from an internal security (anti-subversives, anti-Communist) agency to a modern-day law enforcement agency. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the FBI had settled on control of organized crime as a target worthy of the attention of the nation's most

Similar Books

Broken Song

Kathryn Lasky

Learning curves

Gemma Townley

The Wild Heart

David Menon

Petrify

Beth Chambers

The Dance of the Seagull

Andrea Camilleri

Case File 13 #3

J. Scott Savage

Because I Love You

Jeannie Moon