“Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of the Lower East Side,” by Eric Ferrara – Book Review

“Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of the Lower East Side,” by Eric Ferrara – Book Review

“Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of the Lower East Side,” by Eric Ferrara is a grand tour of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, starting with the chapter, “Worth Street to Canal Street” and ending with “East Houston to 14th Street.”

Ferrrera takes you on a block-by-block tour of the Lower East Side, with the exact addresses of where some truly horrible things happened to some mostly despicable people. He starts off in the time period where the first street gang in New York City, a bunch of head-cracking Irishmen deftly named the Dead Rabbits, controlled the slummed streets of the Five Points Area right before the Civil War. The Five Points area was populated with people so poor and filthy, the city had to come in frequently to disinfect the streets and buildings with intense chemicals.

We also meet such surly individuals like Chinese Tong Leader Mock Duck, who terrorized Chinatown at the turn of the Century. Then there’s the unforgettable three Morrelo brother, Joe, Nick, and Antonio, who along with relatives Ciro Terranova and Ignazio Saietta (Lupo the Wolf), started the Black Hand Society, which extorted money from fellow Sicilians, under the threat of death, a punishment they frequently meted out.

If corrupt politicians are your favorite thugs, Fatty Walsh and Big Tim Sullivan, along with the indomitable Boss Tweed are featured here too, with the exact locations where they perpetrated their evil-doings, all in the name of the law.

Superstar gang leaders Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and his pal Meyer “The Little Man” Lansky are all Lower East Side boys too, along with Lansky’s muscle, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Lansky and Luciano first met in as school students, when Luciano’s racket at the time was extorting pennies from skinny Jewish boys at a Lower East Side school, in return for him not beating them into a pulp. One day, Luciano picked on Lansky, and Lansky fought back tooth and nail, starting a lifetime friendship, also seeped in violence.

The bottom line is that “Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of the Lower East Side” is a fast read with the who, what, when, where and how of murders and thuggery in the Lower East Side, from right before the Civil War, up to the end of the 20th Century. This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you’d like a peek at the underbelly of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you can’t do better than reading this interesting, but sometimes alarming book.