This is an excerpt from a website about the old gangs of NYC. Click on the red link below to go to this site.Posted: March 8, 2011
Italian Harlem’s Downfall
Italian Harlem consisted of Italians mostly of the poorer southern provinces of Calabria and Sicily, who settled in the area east of 3rd Avenue, between 110th-125th Streets, known as “Dago Harlem.” During the 40s, 50s and early 60s, a street gang known as the Harlem Redwings controlled this turf. Their main rivals in East Harlem were the black Dragons and the Enchanters, a few Irish gangs from Irish Harlem, along with the Puerto Rican Viceroys – who controlled 86th Street – (Remember the beginning of the “Young Savages” movie, the first scene was a wall that was tagged “Thunderbirds”, “Horsemen”, and the “Viceroys”). They also fought vicious turf wars with two powerful Bronx Italian gangs, the Golden Guineas and the multi-generational Fordham Baldies.
An Ex-Italian Harlem resident had this to say about East Harlem:
“Italian Harlem as an Italian American enclave was devastated by the building of Franklin Plaza. The residents were sold out by the local politicians and property owners. It was truly a stake through the heart of the neighborhood. Many people promised apartments there never got them. A good portion of East Harlem’s displaced residents settled in Throggs Neck between the years 1955-1965. Most of the neighborhood where I lived was leveled, though oddly enough the building I lived in on First Avenue between 108th and 109th Streets is still standing. I travel up First Avenue every month and ride through looking to see what’s missing now.”
Italian Harlem today
Italian Harlem today, which was located on Manhattan’s east side between 96th Street and 125th Street from Lexington Avenue to the East River, and was known as one of New York City’s “Little Italys”: Still home to fifty thousand Italian Americans, Italian Harlem was largely intact in 1950. By 1960, fewer than sixteen thousand Italian Americans resided in East Harlem. The 1990 Census shows only 918 Italian-Americans living in Italian Harlem. Most of these predominantly older residents are clustered around Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where in a ten-block area (stretching from East 114th Street to East 118th Street and from Second Avenue to Pleasant Avenue) the remaining typical social clubs and business still operate.