Mafia control of NYC services
September 29, 2004 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Do the mafia actually control the garbage-collection racket in New York City? Do they even still exist? If so, what other, uh, services are they involved in?
posted by swift to Law & Government (30 answers total)
private haulers--maybe, maybe not. who knows? (i think "waste management" as a euphemism for mob is more of a tv than a real life thing)
posted by amberglow at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2004

my dad only ever gave me two pieces of advice:
1. sleep in a clean place

(we lived in brooklyn)
can't speak for NYC anymore but the idea is that any monopolizable "racket" is free reign. in the midwest it's mostly been vending, distribution--
don't really notice it any more, but a few years ago in chicago i noticed a thing with the ashtrays and labeled alcohol and cigarette stuff in bars, etc.

"mafia"filter thread, anyone?
like high times listings for the mob
*sings avenues and alleyways*

posted by ethylene at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2004

Ask about New Jersey.
posted by mecran01 at 3:35 PM on September 29, 2004

This info is about 12 years out of date, but I had a girlfriend in the early 90s whose father was (is?) a Waste Management Inc muckety-muck. According to her father, WMI stayed out of NYC because they didn't want to get involved with the Mob.
posted by adamrice at 3:36 PM on September 29, 2004

NYC is terribly, terribly corrupt. I don't know mafia as much as you have to pay everybody everything. I work in construction and have heard horror stories about working in Long Island and with unions. Everyone wants a piece of the action, everyone is in on it, so to do anything in NYC means massive payouts. Same guy told me that there were RICO raids for a lot of the more corrupt things he saw (ie, use us to carpenter at 3x normal rates or you won't be able to get the concrete workers to pour foundation, oh bringing in concrete workers? try buying concrete... etc.)

As for garbage, I believe it's not what it used to be. They've learned to watch garbage dumps for bodies, what bodies look like in carpets, etc. It's pretty impossible to use waste management as a way to get rid of your dirty deeds.
posted by geoff. at 3:59 PM on September 29, 2004

I live in NYC now, and the joke is that no one has garbage disposals because the Mafia discourages them -- waste haulers being paid by the pound.
posted by o2b at 4:01 PM on September 29, 2004

Apparently no longer. See Act III of this episode of This American Life or the book upon which it was based.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:19 PM on September 29, 2004

if we're talking old school stuff, officially, THERE'S NO SUCH THING
*okay, Saul, you can go now*
but it's about influence with groups and allegiences
think when jackie chan publicly came out to support as certain tong

my grandmother got hassled owning teahouses in Korea. besides being a woman at that time and all the other problems-- in the end she became friends with the sister of the gang head and so was then not shookdown and protected

gangs, frateral groups, whatever, it's all in degrees, for good or ill or other
with the change in distribution and commerce and new businesses, less loyalties, it's a much different world of rackets that goes beyond literal territory, running into a host of other laws.

maybe a griftfilter except i really don't want to divulge what's not already available--
posted by ethylene at 4:21 PM on September 29, 2004

Do they even still exist?

No, all the drugs, hookers, gambling and loan sharking all magically appears all by itself.
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on September 29, 2004

No, all the drugs, hookers, gambling and loan sharking all magically appears all by itself.

So the mafia are responsible for those things? My question, see, is about the mafia, and not organized crime in general (though I appreciate the other comments).
posted by swift at 6:29 PM on September 29, 2004

I always heard they were big into concrete, cueing jokes about how Jimmy Hoffa is probably "into concrete" too.
posted by Shane at 6:33 PM on September 29, 2004

OK, that makes a difference. The Sicilian Mob is still around but they're nowhere near as powerful as they once were. Actually the main business that organized criminals tend to get into are restaurants, gas stations, bars and other places where most of the money handled is in cash, since they have a lot of income that they have to account for.
posted by jonmc at 6:37 PM on September 29, 2004

If you have a restaurant and serve fountain beverages, you're probably dealing with the mob somewhere along the line.

Or at least that's what some guy told me once.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:51 PM on September 29, 2004

From what I have heard, the Chinese mafia is very strong in Chinatown, for various reasons including that the NYPD has very few officers who speak Chinese.
posted by falconred at 7:13 PM on September 29, 2004

From what I remember about the This American Life episode linked above, the mafia used to dominate the garbase business in New York, keeping prices artificially high. I don't remember how things changed, but somehow the mafia was ousted from running the trash collections and private business moved in. The thing is, according to the commentator, that big business sweezes little business just as hard as the mafia did, and after a short period of low prices the cost of trash collection in New York is sky high again.

I once met a bar owner from New Jersey who said the mob forced protection payments on bar owners in the area where he worked. I assumed by "the mob" that he meant "the mafia."

The mafia in The Sopranos is mostly in New Jersey.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:35 PM on September 29, 2004

Honestly? Who knows. The fact is half the people with "stories" about mafia incidents are exaggerating or delusional. Any successful organized crime organization would be based on being an "open secret"- that is, people know they're around, but know nothing about it to a degree of being able to counter it. The Mafia is as likely a secret army of a thousand gangsters as it is a couple of guys with cell phones and good contacts at the pier.

There are far more people who "know" mafia guys than there really are mafia guys. Considering how many young black men idolize celebrities of their ethnicity glorifying a life of well-paying criminal activity, it's easy to believe just as many young men of Italian background would feel the same.

Personally, I doubt there's been any type of "Godfather"-level mafia in the Notheast since probably before the turn of the 20th century. We have the much more organized and successful syndicate that is Hollywood to project a fantastic image.

In terms of "organized" crime, the reality is much less romantic- Violent and slimy large men control the importation of drugs, and most likely the poor immigrants to traffic them to inner-city dealers. Illegal entrants to the country being trapped in a world of forced labor and prostitution is far more likely than a bunch of Sicilians in Armanis running the dump trucks.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:05 PM on September 29, 2004

There are far more people who "know" mafia guys than there really are mafia guys.

that's the point

*waiting it out to see what happens*
posted by ethylene at 8:22 PM on September 29, 2004

I knew someone who owned a restaurant in NYC and he said he had to plan for pay-off money in his budget. I am sure this is the truth.
posted by xammerboy at 8:35 PM on September 29, 2004

Personally, I doubt there's been any type of "Godfather"-level mafia in the Notheast since probably before the turn of the 20th century.

Waht about this successfully prosecuted case. Not exactly a creation of Hollywood.

Was it as grandiose as Hollywood would have you believe? Probably not. But there's too much money at stake in all the varios illegal businesses available for the people involved (Italian or otherwise) to not be organized.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2004

If you read Lawrence Sanders, the Mob is alive & well in NYC!

But seriously, I have a very hard time believing that "Sopranos"-like people & behavior actually exist anymore. Prior to, say, the 1960s, it seems likely, but since then, it's all been downhill for "gangsters" of the Godfather type. I could be wrong.
posted by davidmsc at 9:38 PM on September 29, 2004

Also, several people I know have said that it is ... "very difficult" to get into Stagehand Union Local 1 (aka NYC) unless you... "know certain people".
posted by falconred at 9:51 PM on September 29, 2004

*getting warmer*
posted by ethylene at 9:55 PM on September 29, 2004

In Chicago, the mob is called The Outfit, and has long had prominent pols in its pocket. The current Mayor Daley has always had an uncomfortably close relationship with the Duff family, who are pretty well considered mobbed up, and the Duff empire includes all sorts of city contracts -- from snow removal to asphalt trucks to O'Hare everything. The Duffs keep getting caught (ghost payrollers, kickbacks, no-bid contracts) and don't seem terribly ruffled, because they get caught again doing the same thing not much later. Through it all Da Mare remains above the fray, having delivered economic recovery and pretty things for the city like Millennium Park.

The mob also clearly runs smaller suburban enclaves such as Cicero. The convictions in that case inspired episodes of The Sopranos. The city management diverted millions of dollars of city health insurance and pension money to finance personal luxuries (houses, cars, vacation homes) and even underwrote most of an Indian casino in Wisconsin.

Additionally, I have personal experience with a particular business which *ahem* provides personal entertainment services in a semi-public setting. It was my impression, based on technical work I did for the front office, that there were some hinky things happening.

I do believe, then, that the mob is very much alive and well. I don't think The Sopranos does a whole lot of exaggerating, except in that all that stuff couldn't possibly happen to one small family, a standard TV conceit. They run nightclubs, they run pizza joints (there's a legendary roadhouse in what is now the NW suburbs that hosted Frank Sinatra one night, as a payback), they run vending, they run pornography (for a while in the early 90s there was a bombing campaign against porn shops that wouldn't cooperate), they run lots of blue-collar union-type businesses. The state oversees riverboat casinos and horse racing, and is always investigating people for prohibited business relationships (i.e. with convicted felons). They may not be sexy and dramatic with your DeNiro-Pacino-Duvall-Brando romantic glosses, but they do exist, and they continue to find ways to survive even as the laws change and organizations like the FBI become less politically susceptible.

Garbage? Don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by dhartung at 11:51 PM on September 29, 2004

I was a garbage man in Hackensack New Jersey in 1975-76, and no, it wasn't run by the mob. If anything, it was run by the Hackensack African Methodist Episopal Church. Some of the other towns may have had "yoso" connections on their private pickup services. Many towns have public services for residential garbage, and private ones for business garbage. In Hackensack we picked up private garbage for tips on the side.

Bar and Restaurant businesses are attractive for Jersey yosos.
posted by zaelic at 3:18 AM on September 30, 2004

From what I have heard, the Chinese mafia is very strong in Chinatown, for various reasons including that the NYPD has very few officers who speak Chinese.

That's always the interesting thing about organized crime origins, inn't it? They usually started out as a group that looked after immigrants of its own ethnicity. The IRA and even some of the Protestant groups in Ireland even do a little "police work." Rapists who get off the hook have been known to end up face down in the mud, having been shot in the back of the head whilst on their knees, execution-style.

Not that I'm glamorizing what these organizations become. I hate the starry-eyed respect many people give to the mob and to gangs and drug dealers in general.

I have a very hard time believing that "Sopranos"-like people & behavior actually exist anymore.

In certain Italian restaurants even here in BumFut Ohio I still occasionally see a group of guys wander in wearing dark silk suits and dark ties, looking somewhat ridiculous and stereotypical, and being seated in a corner booth that no one else ever sits in.

The last time this happened to me I was taking a couple of heavily Italian-American fellows from whom my job buys materials out to a business lunch. The usual restaurant was booked solid, so we went next door to someplace I'd never been. It turned out this restaurant NEVER played anything but Sinatra, a fact I confirmed with one of the young waiters. I had to apologize to my guests so they'd know I didn't take them to this stereotypical Italian restaurant because they were Italian. The walls were covered with pics of Sinatra and other stars, all of Italian descent. The place was like a Mafiosi depiction out of a bad cartoon, right down to the guys in black shirts and flashy dark red ties walking in and being seated immediately.

One of my guests and the owner got into a subtley macho pissing match:

"So, uh, what do YOU recommend? What do you like to eat offa the menu?"

"I don'ta eat offa the menu. I'm tired of it all, I eata it all too much. They fix me up special or the wife, she cooks for me at home."

My guest ended up complaining the soup was cold.
posted by Shane at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2004

Oh, I forgot to mention: my Italian guests referred to the place as a mafia joint! Heh.
posted by Shane at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2004

I don't know whether or not to take this at face value, but this site claims that it has "snippets of some of the highlights from taped conversations that federal prosecutors played for the jury at Gotti's racketeering/murder trial in 1992." Makes it sound pretty sopranos-y.
posted by jeb at 8:16 AM on September 30, 2004

Vancouver is choc-a-bloc full of Asian gangs, from Chinese mafia to Indian mafia. And there's representation from Russia, East Europe, and South America, too. Not to mention Aboriginal, biker gangs, and probably the mid-East and Africa, too.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on September 30, 2004

AFAIK, organized crime mainly runs on top of other illegal businesses, skimming money, but not in direct operation of the enterprises.

For example, if you rob a truck and want to sell the contents in New York, you will have to pay someone up the crime chain to do it.

Kind of like a criminal Amway multi-level business with money always flowing upwards.

The difference is if you don't pay, they break your legs.

Yes, I am Sicilian. Yes, I used to live in New York. No, I'm not involved in the cosa nostra.
posted by Argyle at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2004

since the impetus of the post was on old school costa nostra
and i guess the a&e history etc. channels are either still nazi tv and haven't switched back to mobs of mobs or are on some new exploitable topic, i guess there's no need to get where i intended--

glamour and romance have to do with the subjective experience--
power is glamorous, especially when you have none--
people who find these things glamorous or romantic otherwise are usually removed enough from the realities-- it makes a good story, like junkies, prositution--
it's different when someone who took 27 gun shot wounds in 5 major organs is in an 8 hour surgery jumps out the window in recovery--
it's different when the godfather theme plays and suddenly people are standing and weeping--
it's different from the 60's, 70's, 80's--

so long and thanks for all the fish
posted by ethylene at 1:30 PM on September 30, 2004

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