New York Foils Mob Influence with Rules, Regulations City Hall Mafia-Busters First Took over the Fish Market, Then Trash Collection, Now the Fruit Market
Alexandra Marks writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
Long before the sun comes up, thousands of crates of bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, and cherries start rolling out of the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, destined for stores and fruit carts around New York. With more than $1.5 billion in gross revenues annually, Hunts Point is the biggest wholesale produce market in the country. It is also, reputedly, under the thumb of the Mob.
But not for long.
This spring Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor who hasn't lost his zeal for fighting organized crime, announced his intentions to root the Mafia out of the market. "It's no secret organized crime has been heavily involved in the wholesale food markets ... for too long," says Mayor Giuliani. That control let Mafia-dominated groups squeeze out competition, fix prices, and run up extra costs to consumers of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, experts say. The mayor calls it the "Mob tax." And he's determined to lift it by going after the weaknesses in the system that allowed the Mafia to get its talons into such industries in the first place. He's attacking the Mob with simple, straightforward government regulation. City Hall is taking control of the city's wholesale food markets, and everyone who works in the market will now have to be licensed and undergo a background check. If there's any taint of organized crime, they're out. "We're checking to be sure that everyone who works there has good character, honesty, and integrity," says Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, who's heading up the mayor's regulatory attack on the Mafia. Both Mr. Mastro and Giuliani are confident they'll be successful, primarily because they've done it before. Similar tactics were used to ease mobsters out of the Fulton Fish Market, the city's wholesale fish market, and the commercial carting industry. But each time, it took both guts and muscle. Success at the fish market For more than 60 years, the Genovese crime family reportedly ran the Fulton Fish Market. Prosecutors say mobsters routinely extracted bribes, threatened violence, and set up shadow companies that would run up huge bills with suppliers, then disappear. While individual mobsters were successfully convicted time and again, they'd simply be replaced by more-junior thugs. Giuliani's solution: Take control of the administration of the market, regulate everything from parking to the hiring and firing of workers, and investigate every firm and individual involved for any hint of mob ties. …