By JASON FIELDS
If you think New York is a tough place to
grow up now, you just have no idea. At the turn of the century,
millions of Jewish and Italian immigrants flooded the city, mixing
with the Irish who immigrated earlier. These newcomers lived in
a world with little sanitation or privacy, or much dignity.
From the steamy ghettos of the Lower East
Side and Brooklyn, from tenements known to collapse and trap their
inhabitants inside, came some very tough customers. Men who really
would be just as glad to kill you as look at you, all of them
with records to prove it.
All of them spent some time in prison. All
of them killed to get where they got. Some of them were visionaries
in their underworld field. None of them were known to be nice
was called kill-crazy even by his fellow mobsters.
Louis (Lepke) Buchalter
- a labor racketeer, murderer and one of the richest men ever
executed in the United States.
Jack (Legs) Diamond
- became famous largely by being a target.
- the financial wizard of the American Mafia. Even the toughest
mobsters followed the advice "Listen to the Little Man."
Charles (Lucky) Luciano
- the chief architect of the organized crime syndicate system
on the Italian side. He always knew what was good for business.
- beer baron of the Bronx during Prohibition who was rubbed out
by the mob because he was a "loose cannon."
Ben (Bugsy) Siegel
- a friend of Lansky who enjoyed murder almost as much as the
Murder, Inc., the crack assassination task force created by the "Commission" (organized crime's central ruling body) to act as the group's enforcement arm.