<DIV><DIV>PREFACE: WHO WANTS TO BE A DEAD HERO? <P></P>“Oh, I know what you want to hear about,” Jim Longhi said with <P></P>false reluctance the first time I called him, interrupting a chess <P></P>game with his wife, Gabrielle. “The old waterfront—gangsters, <P></P>rackets, the Anastasias.” <P></P>He was right. My interest in what Mr. Longhi elegantly called <P></P>the “criminal coloration” of the docks was what had brought us <P></P>together. Longhi was a cultured Manhattan attorney on the threshold <P></P>of his nineties when we met in his cheerful apartment on Sutton <P></P>Place one summer afternoon. He had just removed his work tie <P></P>from the collar of his silk shirt as he led me out onto his small balcony. <P></P>Below us and a few hundred yards away was the East River, a <P></P>pretty staid thoroughfare at that point in its life compared to the <P></P>rough old waterfront I had come to hear about, and Mr. Longhi <P></P>weighed the calm barge traffic he saw against the river in his head. <P></P>“A very different waterfront,” he judged. As we talked about his <P></P>early days, the suave manners of the Columbia- educated attorney <P></P><P></P>loosened a bit, following his tie, revealing a son of the Brooklyn <P></P>docks. Longhi’s father had been a radical docks organizer (“When <P></P>I was born, my father had seven bodyguards, seven Italians with <P></P>ice picks!”), and he had started out himself as a waterfront lawyer <P></P>like Mr. Alfieri, the character his friend Arthur Miller modeled on <P></P>him for <I>A View from the Bridge</I>. We spent some wonderful hours <P></P>among his memories of one friend’s dangerous feud with “Tough <P></P>Tony” Anastasio or another whose longshore activism had dropped <P></P>off after “they broke his legs.” This was the world I was after. <P></P>I’d first become interested in the waterfront when I lived in <P></P>South Brooklyn, in a brownstone owned by an old Italian longshoreman <P></P>with missing fingers. Ships would occasionally appear at <P></P>the end of my street, to be unloaded or repaired or sent off with a <P></P>burst of nighttime fireworks. I grew familiar with the tug and ferry <P></P>horns and watched the sunset flights of pigeons that zagged around <P></P>the rooftops, much as in the famous Brando movie. But I knew <P></P>almost nothing about the old days until I happened across a reference <P></P>to a 1940s newspaper series on waterfront gangsterism. It had <P></P>run for twenty- four days—an extraordinary amount of space to give <P></P>to any subject then, let alone to the lowly docks—and caused a <P></P>national scandal; could the piers really have been as brutal as they <P></P>looked in the movies? <P></P>When I met Jim Longhi again it was in his law offices on lower <P></P>Broadway and he was wearing a beautiful brown suit. The high <P></P>windows looked across to the old <I>New York Sun </I>building and beyond <P></P>to another waterfront, busy with beautifications. On a distant <P></P>pier by the Brooklyn Bridge, where Longhi remembered watching <P></P>desperate men fight a hook- swinging riot, a new riverside playground <P></P>was being dug. We sat for an hour talking about some <P></P>valiant old causes and vivid, long- dead thugs of the harbor. <P></P>Months before he died, I called Mr. Longhi once more at his <P></P>office with a foolishly cinematic idea: to take my ninety- year- old <P></P><P></P>friend out on a boat and tour the harbor, perhaps starting at the <P></P>Narrows and hugging the shoreline to see what he remembered, <P></P>pier by vestigial pier; Longhi would narrate as he drifted around <P></P>the city, recalling who had owned what or done what to whom. <P></P>(“You say, ‘Mafia,’ and it’s provincial,” he had told me. “You say, <P></P>‘Mob,’ and it extends way beyond the Italian underworld.”) <P></P>The small tour boat <I>Geraldina </I>was ready to pick us up, her captain, <P></P>herself a historian of the harbor, eagerly standing by with a <P></P>video camera and microphone to capture the floating lecture. I then <P></P>called Mr. Longhi to ease any remaining old- guy concerns about <P></P>the trip, describing the level, relatively uncomplicated Chelsea <P></P>dock (with an outdoor bar) where we imagined him stepping aboard <P></P>after a steadying cocktail. He listened to my pitch, then paused <P></P>and sighed into the phone. “It kind of sounds like a pain in the <P></P>ass,” he said at last. “I have my own picture of where everything <P></P>was in my mind. I don’t need to see the waterfront today to tell me <P></P>that.” <P></P>Seeing it today would indeed muddle things. At the edge of the <P></P>Erie Basin, a ferry service lures visitors from Manhattan to a giant <P></P>IKEA store that sits among the relics of the Brooklyn industrial <P></P>waterfront. The store has a large upstairs cafeteria where, after a <P></P>long afternoon touring housewares and furniture kits, you can eat <P></P>Swedish meatballs and watch the sun lengthen across the car park, <P></P>paved over a deep old dry dock that once held warships. <P></P>For decades, much of the abandoned waterfront was walled off <P></P>by empty pier sheds. There was a forlorn beauty to the slow dilapidation, <P></P>even if the water was blocked by a kind of ghost town. Many <P></P>old sheds have since been flattened into parks; a trapeze school <P></P>now sits atop Chelsea’s Pier 40 building, and swinging out over the <P></P>Hudson River waterfront, you have a clear downtown view uncluttered <P></P>by slings or crates or Hi- Lo trucks. Looking out from the <P></P>promenade that overhangs the expressway in Brooklyn Heights, <P></P><P></P>you see a rotting wet railroad pier, all that remains here from Jim <P></P>Longhi’s time, the dark planking and rail track punctuated by <P></P>shrubs that grow in green tufts; large concrete piers, recently <P></P>cleared of their cargo sheds for park space, surround the ruin, <P></P>which has been retained among the planned ice rink, new ballfields, <P></P>and condominia pushing south from the bridges and toward <P></P>the hugely still gantry cranes of the Red Hook Marine Terminal. <P></P>Beyond the cranes sits the boxy white- brick headquarters of the <P></P>Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, established in the <P></P>fifties to mind the gangsters on the docks and recently folded into <P></P>Homeland Security. <P></P>The harbor Mr. Longhi kept in his head was the world’s greatest <P></P>port, a collection of bays rimmed with more than nine hundred <P></P>piers and noisily crowded with hundreds of express liners, <P></P>freighters, ferries, lighters, garbage scows, car floats, battleships, <P></P>yachts, floating elevators, coffee barges, and constantly whistling <P></P>tugs. The Hudson was still known as the North River (to distinguish <P></P>it from the Delaware, or South River) along its length from <P></P>the Battery, where freighters often lined up for their tug escorts, to <P></P>the deep Midtown piers. This book is about that old waterfront, and <P></P>its “criminal coloration,” where money washed in and out, and <P></P>graft mingled the longshore union with the racketeers. <P></P>Touring the harbor today, it is hard to imagine these quiet <P></P>frontages of rot and renewal ever knowing such a fearful time that a <P></P>reporter could write, “It has been said, and with some justification <P></P>that the waterfront of New York produces more murders to the <P></P>square foot than does any other one section of the country. Most <P></P>such murders go unsolved.” In fact, in 1948, the year the shooting <P></P>of a young boss stevedore brought reporter Malcolm “Mike” Johnson <P></P>of the <I>New York Sun </I>to the West Side docks, the Manhattan district <P></P>attorney claimed there’d been at least two dozen unsolved <P></P>waterfront murders since 1919. Johnson soon learned that snaking <P></P><P></P>around the watery edges of his town was a very different city. “Murder <P></P>on the waterfront is commonplace,” he wrote, “a logical product <P></P>of widespread gangsterism.” <P></P>I have tried my best to evoke the dock world the longshoremen <P></P>knew long before the newspapers discovered it. But at its heart, <P></P>this is a reporter’s story. If Mike Johnson’s sleuthing along the <P></P>docks has a hardboiled familiarity, echoing any number of later <P></P>Mob tales involving hoods and rackets and an intrepid investigator, <P></P>it is because his was the original—creating the Mob investigation <P></P>form that runs from <I>On the Waterfront </I>to <I>The Valachi Papers </I>and <P></P><I>Donnie Brasco</I>. Johnson’s discovery of what he called a “waterfront <P></P>jungle” is also the story of a clash of New York institutions—a fading <P></P>newspaper, backing its unshakable veteran star reporter; the <P></P>Mob, near the height of its influence, whose leaders had largely <P></P>come to power and of age during Prohibition; and the longshore <P></P>union and the pugnacious survivor at its helm, “president- for- life” <P></P>Joseph Ryan. <P></P>“One of the constantly astounding things about New York is that <P></P>it can endure so much crime and corruption and still manage to get <P></P>on,” the <I>New York Herald Tribune </I>editorialized during the waterfront <P></P>scandals. Indeed, the city had “gotten on” for several decades <P></P>under an imaginary bargain, despite the occasional alarms raised <P></P>by citizens’ groups about port corruption and the bodies that turned <P></P>up from month to month, deposited by what newspapers obtusely <P></P>called the “dock wars.” New Yorkers were aware that gangsters <P></P>shared their town, primarily robbing and shooting one another and <P></P>running the better nightclubs but never holding the reins completely <P></P>as they had in Chicago. For many, their city’s sinful reputation <P></P>was the price of cosmopolitanism. <P></P>Reporters had toured the waterfront before Mike Johnson, <P></P>dabbling in its rough atmosphere and lore as the movies did—as a <P></P>setting for brawls and deals or other seamy behavior beyond the <P></P><P></P>edge of society. Investigating the deaths of some twenty- one stevedores <P></P>in Brooklyn’s Irishtown neighborhood, <I>The New Yorker</I>’s Alva <P></P>Johnston wrote in 1931 that the total lack of arrests was “not <P></P>because there is anything secret or underhand about these murders, <P></P>but because the witnesses won’t talk.” Loyalty to the waterfront <P></P>code against “squealing” also marked the death of the <P></P>Brooklyn dock boss Red Donnelly, who, balehooked and shot in a <P></P>waterfront shanty, was asked the perfunctory policeman’s question <P></P>of who had killed him. “John Doe,” Red coughed out, and died <P></P>pure. <P></P>Even the celebrated crimefighter Thomas Dewey, whose racketbusting <P></P>exploits as Manhattan DA inspired a long- running radio <P></P>drama (<I>Mister District Attorney</I>), was beaten by the docks and its <P></P>infuriating code. After his agents secretly filmed longshoremen <P></P>passing “tribute” money at two Wall Street piers in 1941, they subpoenaed <P></P>two hundred of the men and shuttled them in buses to a <P></P>special screening of the surveillance movie, which failed to convince <P></P>many about testifying. As one asked, “Who the hell wants to <P></P>be a dead hero, mister?” <P></P>Arturo Piecoro began his three decades on the New York docks <P></P>in the last days of the “shape- up” system, when each freightbearing <P></P>vessel that entered the harbor was met by gangs of men, <P></P>many carrying curved iron hooks with which they would dig out the <P></P>stowed cargoes of lumber, coffee, copper ingots, or Egyptian cotton. <P></P>These hopefuls crowded together at the pierheads, hunching under <P></P>their caps and windbreakers in raw weather, waiting to be chosen <P></P>in an ancient ritual in which most would be sent home. The shapeup <P></P>was “a hit- and- miss thing unless you knew somebody,” Piecoro <P></P>told me at a Brooklyn coffee shop. “If you miss one shape, you <P></P>hurry down to the next pier. There’s another ship. You bullshit with <P></P>some guys, then go over. Three steady gangs would be called first; <P></P>then, if somebody was sick, you might have a chance.” <P></P><P></P>Those picked in the shape might work four or sixteen hours <P></P>while a particular ship remained in port; if they weren’t part of a <P></P>regular work gang, they could idle for a week around the piers or <P></P>waterfront bars, scanning the newspapers or pub chalkboards for <P></P>lists of incoming ships. When they worked, the longies, as they <P></P>called themselves, were at greatest risk down in the ship’s hold; but <P></P>up top, slings could slip and rain down heavy cargo loads on the <P></P>men working below. On Columbia Street in Brooklyn, the day’s <P></P>gangs were often sorted out between the hatch boss and hiring boss <P></P>before the shape- up whistle even sounded, which made the shapeup <P></P>itself a demoralizing formality. “Guys paid for jobs, but you <P></P>never saw it,” Piecoro told me. “They might turn up with something <P></P>on their hat, or behind their ear, but you never saw them do it. That <P></P>was all done before.” <P></P>When Jim Longhi brought his friend Arthur Miller down to <P></P>Columbia Street to show him a shape- up, the young playwright was <P></P>thoroughly shocked to see the men herded docilely together, “waiting <P></P>for the hiring boss, on whose arrival they surged forward and <P></P>formed in a semi circle to attract his pointing finger and the numbered <P></P>brass checks that guaranteed a job for the day,” Miller <P></P>remembered. On another visit he saw men “tearing at each other’s <P></P>hands” in “a frantic scramble” for the morning’s last few work <P></P>checks. “America, I thought, stopped at Columbia Street.” <P></P>So it seemed. “Mobsters and labor racketeers” controlled the <P></P>world’s largest port, Mike Johnson wrote in 1948—and they threatened <P></P>his life for saying it. The bolder pier heists included an entire <P></P>electrical generator gone missing and a vanished ten- ton shipment <P></P>of steel. Organized pilferage was so rampant, Johnson said, it <P></P>amounted to an unofficial national tax, made possible by wider corruption <P></P>in the longshore union and in the courts, the police department, <P></P>and Washington. The scandal he raised inspired Estes <P></P>Kefauver to put mobsters on national television and the filmmakers <P></P><P></P><P></P><P></P>Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan to create a controversial masterpiece. <P></P>That so many people now regard <I>On the Waterfront </I>as an <P></P>allegory for something else—the filmmakers’ own testifying to Congress <P></P>about communism—shows how much has been forgotten <P></P>about the criminal reality of the docks Mike Johnson exposed. <P></P>As Johnson would learn, the “waterfront jungle” was by no <P></P>means a clear extension of the New York it encircled. It was a city <P></P>apart, with its own bosses, language, and codes, bankers, soldiers <P></P>and even martyrs, a frontier all its own. </DIV></DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Dark Harbor</b> by <b>Nathan Ward</b> Copyright © 2011 by Nathan Ward. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.