Greg Young of the Bowery Boys blog has a great post up about North Brooklyn in the late 70’s and early 80s. As part of a promotion for the upcoming film A Most Violent Year — which looks fascinating and is about New York’s most violent year, 1981 — he discusses the street gangs of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint, aka “The Killing Fields:”
The New York Times ran of list of several notorious Williamsburg gangs, including the Dirty Ones, the Driggs Boys Of Justice and the Screaming Phantoms. In 1981 Luis Garden Acosta, a prominent community leader, called northern Brooklyn (Williamsburg, with its neighbors Bushwick and Greenpoint) the “killing fields” for the number of teenagers killed in bloody gang conflicts.
Companies along the waterfront and the so-called “high crime badlands” on the Williamsburg and Greenpoint border armed their employees with bullet-proof vests, guard dogs and revolvers. Frequent muggings between the warehouse district and the subway (L train) drove several employers from the neighborhood. The vacated warehouses only made the streets of Williamsburg more dangerous for those that remained.
The mob also had a prominent foothold in Williamsburg. Dominick Napolitano (aka Sonny Black) controlled activities of the Bonanno crime family from his headquarters at the Motion Lounge (420 Graham Avenue). One of his close associates was actually the FBI agent Joseph Pistone, infiltrating the mob under the name Donnie Brasco. Pistone continued his surveillance of the Bonanno family until the summer of 1981. Less than a month after Pistone left his cover, Napolitano departed the Motion Lounge for the final time and was brutally assassinated in a basement in the neighborhood of Flatlands.
Read the whole thing here.