Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime

Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime

Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime

Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime


Cosa Nostra. Organized crime. The Mob. Call it what you like, no other crime group has infiltrated labor unions and manipulated legitimate industries like Italian organized crime families. One cannot understand the history and political economy of New York City-or most other major American cities-in the 20th century without focusing on the role of organized crime in the urban power structure.

Gotham Unbound demonstrates the remarkable range of Cosa Nostra's activities and influence and convincingly argues that 20th century organized crime has been no minor annoyance at the periphery of society but a major force in the core economy, acting as a power broker, even as an alternative government in many sectors of the urban economy.

James B. Jacobs presents the first comprehensive account of the ways in which the Cosa Nostra infiltrated key sectors of New York City's legitimate economic life and how this came over the years to be accepted as inevitable, in some cases even beneficial. The first half of Gotham Unbound is devoted to the ways organized crime became entrenched in six economic sectors and institutions of the city-the garment district, Fulton Fish Market, freight at JFK airport, construction, the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and the waste-hauling industry. The second half compellingly documents the campaign to purge the mob from unions, industries, and economic sectors, focusing on the unrelenting law enforcement efforts and the central role of Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral administration in devising innovative regulatory strategies to combat the mob.


Cosa nostra is the largest, most sophisticated, most powerful, and most remarkable crime syndicate in the history of the United States. For reasons that this book makes clear, it is unlikely that any other crime syndicate, at least in the foreseeable future, will play anything like the role that Cosa Nostra has played in our nation’s social, economic, and political life. Yet, for reasons this book also makes clear, Cosa Nostra’s survival into the next millennium, in anything like its twentieth-century form, can be seriously doubted.

This book deals with Cosa Nostra’s entrenchment in New York City’s economy and with federal, state, and local governments’ omnibus and unprecedented efforts to liberate New York City from Cosa Nostra in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Part I spotlights six major businesses or industries in New York City that have been “mobbed-up” for decades, in some cases for most of the century. Part ii examines the federal, state, and local organized-crime control strategies that have achieved significant success in purging Cosa Nostra from the city’s social, economic, and political life. the List of Names at the back of the book provides the reader a quick and easy way to identify all the criminals and crime controllers mentioned throughout the book.

With respect to organized crime, New York City is not unique. While the names of the Cosa Nostra families and other details differ from city to city, the main themes of the story we tell for New York City could also be told for Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Jersey City, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, Philadelphia, and many other large and small U.S. cities. in every one of these cities Italian organized-crime groups have a long history of extensive industrial and labor racketeering and of having functioned as important players in urban politics and in the urban power structure.

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