Gophers (early 1900s-Prohibition)- The Gophers were the most powerful
of the early Hell's Kitchen gangs. Mostly made up of Irish toughs
from the West Side. They were not really an organized crime group
because not many lucrative rackets were open to them. Their main
specialties were burglarizing shops and pool halls and raiding
the docks and the Hudson River Railroad. At their peak in 1907,
there was believed to be around some 500 members. Occasionally
the Gophers would lend their services to various political candidates.
Most of their time was spent fighting other gangs around the area.
There was no real boss of the Gophers, but there were many gang
members who stuck out, such as Monk Eastman, Happy Jack Mullraney
and One Lung Curran.
"The Killer" Madden (1930s)- Owney Madden was a first
of his kind in Hell's Kitchen. He dressed in expensive suits and
was well-known in New York's high society. He controlled bootleg
liquor, nightclubs, taxicabs, laundries, and cloak and cigarette
concessions. He also controlled interest in the very popular Cotton
Club in Harlem and a piece of heavyweight boxing champion Primo
Carnera. In 1931, he was made a representative of the Irish Mob
in New York by Lucky Luciano. It was not long before someone from
HK challenged his reign. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll was
the greatest threat to Madden. Madden got him on February 8, 1932.
Coll was shot to death. Madden was imprisoned in 1933 for 12 months
and after his release he retired to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
J. "Eddie" McGrath (1940s-1959)- Went up the ranks of
the Irish mob as a bootlegger under Madden. McGrath has ties to
some very influential politicians and was involved in the union.
He had been appointed an ILA "organizer at large" by
the union's president, Joseph P. Ryan. His right-hand men were
his brother-in-law, John "Cockeye" Dunn and Andrew "Squint"
Sheridan. He controlled the lucrative numbers game throughout
the port of New York. In 1948 McGrath started losing much of his
profit with the docks. With the life sentence give to Squint Sheridan
and the execution of Cockeye Dunn, Edward J. McGrath decided it
was time to retire. In 1959 he bought a one-way ticket to Florida.
Spillane (1959-1979)- Mickey Spillane inherited the rackets that
McGrath left behind. Spillane also inherited an alliance with
the city's La Cosa Nostra that dated back to Owney Madden. By
1960, LCN had overpowered the Irish mobs everywhere, including
Hell's Kitchen. Spillane was allowed to operate within his neighborhood
but not without the Italians getting a cut of the profit. Spillane
didn't like the Italians muscling in on his territory so he would
often kidnap LCN figures and hold them for ransom. He controlled
the numbers racket in HK. He also owned most of the gambling dens
in HK and about a half-dozen night clubs. He was also a man of
influence in his community. In 1966, a tough young Irish punk
challenged Mickey for control of HK. His name was Jimmy Coonan.
Killings and kidnappings were to follow. It ended when Coonan
was sent to prison for murder until 1970. Spillane was still boss
when Coonan was released. War didn't break out but by 1977 Spillane
was a shadow of his former self. With the death of top enforcers,
Tom Devaney (July 20, 1976), Eddie Cummiskey (August 20, 1976)
and Tom "The Greek" Kapatos (January 27, 1977), Mickey
had lost all the power he had. "Fat Tony" Salerno had
ordered the hits because he wanted the soon-to-be built Jacob
Javits Convention Center, which was in Mickey's neighborhood.
Spillane's rackets were also being eaten up by Jimmy Coonan's
new breed of Irish mobsters. Mickey Spillane was killed May 13,
1977. It was said Roy DeMeo's crew took the job and Coonan knew
nothing about it. Jimmy Coonan would be the next ruler of Hell's
Coonan (1977-1986)- Jimmy Coonan led the most violent Irish gang
Hell's Kitchen and New York has ever seen. After being released
from jail in 1970, he started building up his own Irish gang so
he could take over the rackets from Mickey Spillane. His gang
soon outgrew the old Irish mob led by Spillane. Coonan's gang
consisted of such killers as Richie Ryan (the uncontrollable kid
who was a cocaine addict and alcoholic), Francis "Mickey"
Featherstone (Jimmy's right hand man), JImmy McElroy, Billy Beattie,
Eddie Coonan, Jackie Coonan, Kevin Kelley, and Kenny Shannon.
Unlike the Spillane gang, which had a no-drug law, the Westies
under Coonan were mostly cocaine addicts and alcoholics. In 1978,
Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino's, wanted a sit-down with
Coonan and they made an alliance with each other. Jimmy ordered
the killing of mob associate and one of the most successful loansharks
in New York City, Ruby Stein. Stein was a very powerful mand and
a friend of Fat Tony Salerno. It was this murder where Coonan
used the method of chopping up his victims and keeping the hands
for fingerprints. Coonan also tried many times to kill Salerno.
Several times Coonan, Featherstone, Ryan and McElroy went out
looking for Salerno; they never spotted him. Coonan also tried
to link up with an Irish gang in Boston run by his friend he met
in Sing Sing, Pete Wilson. They met numerous times in NY and then
flew to Boston to carry out a heist with Wilson and his boys.
Together they robbed a pharmeceutical warehouse. But after that
they never got back together because of the events happening in
HK. From 1970-1986 there were some 30 unsolved homicides. In 1979
Featherstone and Coonan were indicted for the murder of Whitney
Whitehead but were found not guilty. In 1980 Coonan and Featherstone
were sentenced to four years for gun possession and counterfeiting.
During the 80s the Westies' fortune grew. Narcotics became the
most profitabe racket while Jimmy was gone. Sports betting was
another growing racket. Pressure was building up on Coonan when
his right hand man, Mickey Featherstone, flipped so Jimmy decided
it was time to disappear from HK. He invested in Marine construction.
In 1986, Coonan was arrested and this ended his reign of HK. Coonan
was convicted in 1988 under RICO and received 75 years. In his
absence Kevin Kelley took over.
Kelley (1986-1988)- With the absence of Coonan, HK rackets were
up for grabs. Kevin Kelley, along with his right hand man Kenny
Shannon, grabbed what they could take. They also started operating
outside the West Side, pushing cocaine in Manhattan's Upper East
Side. With evidence building up, Kelly and Shannon went on the
run. In August of 1988, after the sentencing of Coonan and other
gang members, Kevin Kelley and Kenny Shannon turned themselves
in. The FBI identified the two men as the last ruling structure
of the Westies. They were wrong, Bosco "The Yugo" Rondonvich
took over what was left of the HK rackets.
"The Yugo" Rondonvich (1988-present)- Bosco Rondonvich,
a Yugoslavian, is the supposed leader of HK. He started out as
a low-level associate of Jimmy Coonan, but with the conviction
of most of the Westies, he rose to the top. Bosco was connected
with Marine Construction and had ties to John Gotti. In 1992,
Bosco was indicted for labor racketeering and jury tampering.
Bosco fled the US and was believed to be hiding out in the former
Famous Hell's Kitchen Gangsters-
"Mad Dog" Coll- Wasn't originally from HK but brought
there at an early age to be raised by his sister. He started working
for Dutch Schultz early on. His mean temper and killer instinct
made him an important enforcer in the Schultz gang. At age 19,
he killed a harmless bartender for not buying Schultz's beer.
He was acquited. It was not long before Coll started getting on
Schultz's bad side. He started robbing places without permission.
When Schultz told him to lay low for awhile, Coll demanded that
he and Schultz become equal partners. When Schultz refused, Coll
started up his own gang. He started raiding Schultz's bootlegging
empire and did the same to Owney Madden. His downfall started
on July 28, 1931. Joey Rao, Schultz's top man in Harlem, was standing
outside the Helmar Social Club along with his two bodyguards and
a crowd of kids. A speeding car came by firing shots everywhere.
When all was done, a five year old kid lay dead and four were
wounded. Rao and his bodyguards were not injured. Everyone knew
Coll was behind the shooting and started calling him baby killer.
On the night of February 8, 1932, Coll was talking on the phone
when a man walked in with a Thompson sub-machine gun and pumped
him full of lead. Coll died in a pool of his own blood. It was
said that Owney Madden set him up.
Cummiskey- Was an old time gangster compared to Jimmy Coonan.
He was actually the first to show Coonan the way of chopping up
his victims and dumping them into a river. He was first employed
by Mickey Spillane and was on his side during the Spillane/Coonan
wars of the mid-60s. But when Coonan got out of jail he became
good friends with him. During the 1970s he was good friends with
both Spillane and Coonan. On August 20, 1978 Eddie Cummiskey was
drinking at the Sunbrite bar when a man walked in and shot him
in the head at point blank range. The deed was done by Joe "Mad
Dog" Sullivan and ordered by Tony Salerno.
"Mickey" Featherstone- Was the right hand man of Jimmy
Coonan. Joined the Army at the age of 17. When he got back from
Viet Name in 1970, he was involved in a few murders but got off
due to insanity and declared unfit to stand trial. He was 5'8",
160 lbs and fearless, never backing down from a fight. Coonan
soon introduced him to his organization. He was involved in the
killing of mob associate Ruby Stein. In 1979, Featherstone was
indicted for the murder of Whitney Whitehead. He was found innocent.
He did get six years for gun possession and counterfeiting. When
Mickey got out he was angered that Coonan had not taken care of
his family like he promised. Featherstone also began to dislike
how Coonan kissed up to the Italians. He decided it was time to
go straight. He turned down an offer from Coonan to murder some
guys, which angered Coonan. The breaking point between Featherstone
and Coonan started when Coonan refused to lend Featherstone $40,000.
Featherstone soon put together his own gang of HK thugs to take
out Coonan and his associates. His two top men for the conspiracy
were Billy Beattie, whom Coonan had a contract on, and Jimmy McElroy.
They went out a couple of times trying to find him but were unsuccessful.
The FBI got Mickey to flip in 1986. He testified against Coonan
and helped convict him. He later testified against John Gotti
and other Italian gangsters. Featherstone is still alive in WPP.