|New York|  Paul Kelly

Birth: December 23, 1876 - Sicily

Death: April 3, 1936

Paul Kelly was a New York criminal who founded the Five Points Gang, one of the last dominant street gangs in New York history and recruited many of the most prominent criminals of the early 20th century, including Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Frankie Yale. His year of birth is not reliably known. Some reports have him born in 1871 (as well his death in 1927), however his gravestone in Calvary Cemetery says he was born December 23, 1876 and died April 3, 1936. There are some doubts that the site is actually his grave.

Early life
Born Paolo Antonio Vaccarelli in Sicily, he adopted an Irish surname when he began professional boxing after emigrating to New York in the early 1890s. Using money gained from prizefighting he began operating several bordellos in the Italian district east of the Bowery (A small neighbourhood) where he later opened several athletic clubs as a front for the local street gangs that began to come under his control.

Five Points Gang

The Five Points early 1900s Offering his services to Tammany Hall politician "Big" Tim Sullivan, Kelly's gang helped re-elect Tammany Hall incumbent Tom Foley against Paddy Divver, a local saloon owner campaigning to keep the red light districts out of the Fourth Ward during the 1901 Second Assembly District primary elections, forming one of the earliest and longest lasting partnerships between politics and organized crime. Throughout the election day on September 17 Kelly's gang of over 1,500 men openly assaulted Divver supporters, blocked polling booths, and committed numerous acts of voter fraud easily winning the election for Foley. Kelly later gained control of the vice districts of the Fourth and Sixth Wards, including prostitution, gaining a virtual monopoly in the Five Points.

In 1903 Kelly was arrested for assault and robbery and served nine months in jail. On release, Kelly formed the Paul Kelly Association, a new athletic club which he used to recruit younger criminals for his organization. From his headquarters The New Brighton, a two story cafe and dance hall at 57 Great Jones Street (between Lafayette and Bowery) Kelly charmed socialites and other prominent citizens who frequented his club. Always well dressed, Kelly spoke French, Italian, and Spanish fluently and his educated and sophisticated nature impressed many of New York's elite. During that time Kelly's organization expanded into other parts of Manhattan and parts of New Jersey. However Kelly's image alienated many top gunmen who later left for the Monk Eastman Gang, such as "Kid Twist" Max Zwerbach and Richie Fitzpatrick (was a top gunman in the Monk Eastman gang 1880 - 1904). Others, such as Johnny Spanish, later left to go out on their own.

Paul Kelly-Monk Eastman rivalry

Kelly's main rival was Monk Eastman, whose gang of over 2,000 gunmen controlled New York's East Side. Eastman, an old-fashioned thug of the 19th century, was the complete opposite of the cultured Kelly, whom Eastman intensely disliked. While both gangs were under the control of Tammany Hall the two constantly raided each other. While Kelly occasionally committed petty theft, which caused his 1903 arrest, Eastman constantly fought alongside his men.

War broke out between the Five Point and Eastman gangs in 1904. However, as the war began to turn in Eastman's favor, Eastman was arrested for robbery. Tammany Hall, now eager to end the warfare between its two affiliated gangs, withdrew any protection for Eastman, who was sent to Sing Sing Prison.

Kelly's downfall

Tammany Hall With Eastman's arrest Kelly completely controlled New York. However members of the Five Points Gang continued to resent Kelly's behavior and in November 1908 Kelly's lieutenants, Razor Riley and James T. "Biff" Ellison, attempted to assume leadership. Walking into Kelly's New Brighton headquarters Riley and Ellison began firing. Kelly, drinking with bodyguards Bill Harrington and Rough House Hogan, returned fire as Harrington was killed protecting Kelly. After several minutes Riley and Ellison escaped and, a wounded Kelly was taken to a private hospital before he could be arrested. Kelly turned himself in a month later but charges were dropped due to Kelly's political connections. Riley was later arrested in 1911 and sent to prison where he went insane, eventually dying in an asylum. Ellison was found by police, dead from pneumonia, in his basement hideout in Chinatown. The negative publicity caused New Brighton to be closed down by Police Commissioner William McAdoo for the protection of its socialite regulars, beginning the end of Paul Kelly's dominance in the New York's underworld.

Final years

Tammany Hall also put pressure on Kelly to lower his profile as it sought to clean up the Bowery. After Kelly closed the New Brighton, he moved operations to the Italian immigrant communities in Harlem and Brooklyn. He also retained ties to his old neighborhood, becoming a vice president of the International Longshoremen's Association under the name Paul Vaccarelli, with his base in the Chelsea area. He was expelled from the ILA in 1919, but returned to it later that year after assuming leadership of a spontaneous port wide strike begun in protest against a five cent an hour wage increase agreed to by the leadership of the International Union. With the support of Mayor John F. Hylan he was appointed to a commission created to resolve the strike, which he ended without obtaining any concessions for the strikers. He became a labor racketeer, providing muscle in labor disputes, in the 1920s. He died of natural causes in 1936.
(Picture above taken from the Patrick Downey website)

.:Back to American Mafia:.

2007 - 2015    |    Contact Webmaster