Gaetano Lucchese

Gaetano (Tommy Brown) Lucchese was born in 1899 in Palermo, Sicily. He emigrated to this country as a small child with his family, settling into a tenement building at 213 East 106th St., and later at 316 East 118th St., both in Italian East Harlem.

He was naturalized in 1943 and was aka “Three Finger Brown”, “Thomas Luchese”, and “Thomas Arra”.

By the early-1930s, the family had relocated out to Queens County.

They moved to an apartment at 100-18 Northern Boulevard in the Corona section of the borough. At that time in history, Corona was well-known as the “Little Italy” of Queens, where Tommy would maintain a residence as well as one in East Harlem.

As he became better established, Tommy built a beautiful home at 145-79 Sixth Avenue in the exclusive waterfront community of Malba, Queens.

Lucchese eventually moved to the Bayside area, and in later years, relocated out to the exclusive oceanfront community of Lido Beach at 74 Royat Street, where he would reside for the remainder of his life.

He also maintained a winter retreat down in South Florida.

Thomas Lucchese stood a mere 5-feet 4-inches tall and was a compact 145-pounds.

With close-cropped black hair and dark brown eyes, the soft-featured Lucchese gave off a very demure and disarming appearance. In fact, he was a highly intelligent, quiet, and soft-spoken man.

Always a dapper dresser in an expensive but conservative fashion, the business savvy Lucchese easily mixed with the likes of politicians, top businessmen and gangsters alike. 

He had three brothers; Joseph, Vincent (Jimmy), and Anthony (Nino), who would all join with him in the life to some capacity.

Lucchese also had a daughter, Frances, who would marry Tommy Gambino, the son of Carlo, thereby solidifying the two Family powers. 

Side Note: Having come from Corona, he would set his brothers up as the bosses in that neighborhood, and Corona would become a second home base for the borgata at large.

FBI # 168275, NYCPD # B-68834

He had a limited record (6 arrests) starting in 1921;

• 1921 – grand larceny (served 3 years) 

• 1927 – receiving stolen goods 

• 1928 – murder (gun) 

• 1930 – murder 

• 1931 – investigation 

• 1935 – vagrancy

Early in his career he sometimes operated out of a base called the LaGuardia Political Club off E. 106th Street in East Harlem. 

In 1928, he and his future brother-in-law Joseph (Joe Palisades) Rosato, were arrested for the murder of Louis Cerasuolo, a Harlem hood who they were accused of shooting right on an East Harlem street corner in view of his wife and sister who had filed the police complaint that got them arrested in the first place.

Before it could come to trial, the women both recanted their earlier testimony, stating that they had been mistaken and didn’t recognize Lucchese and Rosato as the killers….. both young mafiosi walked free.

He would experience several similar incidents over the length of his career of eyewitnesses who had very poor eyesight.

And with the exception of once being jailed for several years for car theft, Tommy Brown would never again hear the cell doors slam shut around him.

“Tommy Brown” had a reputation, second only to that of Frank Costello, as a master corrupter and political “fixer”.

Lucchese was infamous in his ability to infiltrate government and corrupt politicians, be it at the local level in Tammany Hall (the Democratic political powerhouse machine of its era), or on the state or federal level of congressmen and senators. 

• Carmine DeSapio – Tammany Hall leader

• Judge Frank Mancuso

• Mayor William (Big Bill) O’Dwyer

• Mayor Vincent Impelletieri

• NYC Water Commissioner, James Marcus 

…… are just a few of the legions of politicians, police, and judges who were under his thumb, often times having owed their very jobs to him.

His infiltration and corruption of major industries is legendary.

New York’s garment industry, the construction industry, trucking and international airport freight, are but a few of many that fell victim to his Machiavellian-like machinations. 

This masterful and artful corrupter truly operated on a level rarely seen in this country.

Workers move clothes in the garment district.

But, in my opinion, his most pervasive infiltration was that in which he exercised over the garment industry.

With the entire New York “garment district” in his hip pocket, he had dominion over virtually the entire industry nationwide.

Because at the drop of a hat, between his ironclad control of the ILGWU – International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the trucking companies which delivered the garments, which in turn brought many of the largest dress designers and manufacturers under his thumb, he could shut down an entire industry’s machines and seamstresses from “humming” out the dresses and other apparel all Americans wore.

He either owned outright or held major hidden interests in a litany of garment designers and factories over the many decades he operated, including; 

>> Braunell, Ltd., Manhattan

>> Bal-Frank Blouse Co., Manhattan 

>> Pleasant Coat Co., Pleasant, NJ

>> Bob-France Coat Co., Queens 

>> Anna-Lynn Sportswear, Manhattan

>> Car-Mil Sportswear, Manhattan 

>> Pilgrim Dress Co., Manhattan 

>> Temee Girl Coats, Inc., Manhattan 

>> Nassau Dress Co., Long Island 

>> Farrell Modes, Inc., Island Park, Long Island

>> Harvick Sportswear Co., of Scranton, PA. 

….. and the shipping companies that delivered them as well: 

>> County Garment Delivery, Inc., and 

>> S. & R. Trucking Co., both of Manhattan

….. the above listed firms were but a fraction of those under his control.

Many of his borgata members had ownership interests of their own.

And I’m sure Tommy got his occasional envelope from them as the “tribute” that is customary so as to “wet the beak of the bird” so to speak. 

He also held ownership interest in other companies such as the Fordham Hoisting Co. in the Bronx and several other rigging and hoisting firms that the Lucchese Family dominated.

Construction firms and a multitude of Teamsters Unions and many other labor-union organizations were others that the Lucchese’s were well known to have dominion over. 

And while we are on the subject of control and receiving “envelopes” or “e pizzo”, which every Family Boss and hierarchy receives as a matter of course and is entitled to, it is important to note that Tommy Lucchese was well-liked by his “rank and file”…. in fact, let me rephrase that statement. 

Lucchese was “very well-loved” by his men! Why? Because he was almost singular in his generosity which is rare in the underworld…especially by bosses toward their disciples.

It was a well-known fact amongst the various soldiers of all the other Families, that he was extremely generous and not at all greedy, as far as demanding large percentages of his soldiers earnings. 

And he let them dabble as they wished in the highly lucrative narcotics trade, specifically heroin trafficking….both importation and wholesale nationwide distribution of a product that could and did make millionaires out of many of his men.

And back in the 1940s and early-1950s, before revised draconian laws were enacted that starting jailing mafiosi with heavy sentences, many mafiosi received slaps on the wrist even if caught with kilo amounts of the drug. So for some, it was a popular racket to dabble in. 

Between the infiltration of various industries and the profits that were shared equally, and heavy street racket operations such as large policy banks, bookmaking networks, and million dollar bankroll loanshark businesses, these, coupled with the massive profits from narcotics, and you had a very happy “rank and file”…. the Lucchese Family was known as one of the most internally peaceful and profitable borgatas in the entire history of Cosa Nostra.

Of course decades later, by the late-1980s, under the rule of much less capable men, the Family would be shredded to tatters, but that’s a story for another day.

During Lucchese’s tenure the borgata hummed along smoothly and quietly. 

He would fall seriously ill and succumb to cancer after a short time. He was a relatively young 67 years old when he died in 1967.

And although his blood family tried to have a quiet wake and funeral, his death would become a media spectacle with both local and federal agents filming and snapping surveillance pictures of all visitors coming to pay their respects, and the newspapers having a field day. 

And although everyone knew that there was heavy surveillance by law enforcement, Tommy Brown was such a beloved Boss and friend to many, that the funeral home and cemetery was jam-packed with the most notorious mafiosi in the tri-state area, top politicians, judges, and even police officials themselves. 

It was a tribute to his standing in both the underworld and upperworld that so many people from varied walks of life came to say their goodbyes!

One of the most well-liked and well-respected mafioso ever, Gaetano (Tommy Brown) Lucchese was one of the original underworld powers in this country.

He was there when “This Thing” was formed back in the 1920s and 1930s, setting the stage for what was to come for the next 100 years!

…… Buona Salute Tommy!…. Riposa in pace! (Rest in peace) 

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