Archive | 12:02 am

A New York Minute (10)

9 Jan

January 9, 2012

This is your New York Minute.

One thing I love is local history, and my part of New York has more than its share.

On September 3rd 1609, explorer Henry Hudson, who had set sail from Europe six months before, reached the New World and found himself in what is now called Lower Gravesend Bay, just off the shore of Brooklyn and anchored by the small piece of land that the later Dutch settlers would call Coney Island. It was here that he was attacked and driven off by unfriendly Native Americans. Even back then Brooklyn was a tough place. He quickly continued up the bay, passing through the present day location of the Verrazano Bridge and up the river that bears his name, the Hudson.

The name of his ship? The Half Moon.

Flash forward to 1927. The Half Moon Hotel was built right on the boardwalk in Coney Island, close to where Hudson’s crewman John Coleman was killed with an arrow through the neck. In fact, I can just about see that spot from my roof.

This is my part of town.

The Half Moon was a luxurious, 14 story behemoth just next to the amusement parks. Coney Island back then was still a playground for the wealthy, though the Great Depression was about to change things a bit.

The Half Moon Hotel achieved a degree of infamy in 1941. New York City had for decades been in the grip of organized crime. Murder Inc. was a vicious organization of mafia groups that was led by Albert Anastasia, who later became the boss of the Gambino crime family. One member of Murder Inc., a thug named Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, was caught by the police and was facing certain execution for a slew of gangland murders. Rather than sit in the electric chair he turned informant- or rat, depending on your point of view,  and gave information that put a half dozen infamous gangsters in the death house. This didn’t sit too well with Albert Anastasia, who was next in the government’s sights.

Kid Twist was to be the sole witness in Anastasia’s trial on November 12th. The government put him up in the Half Moon Hotel under the perhaps not-so-watchful eyes of six police detectives. There are some interesting theories about what happened next, but in the early morning hours of November 12th, 1941, Kid Twist Reles was forcefully escorted out of a sixth floor window and died on the ground below.

On the other hand, Albert Anastasia slept very well that night.

The Half Moon Hotel eventually became a hospital and later a home for the aged and sat on its imposing perch until 1996, when it was torn down shortly before it could be landmarked.

Henry Hudson, Kid Twist Reles, Coney Island, and The Half Moon Hotel still endure with a cinematic legacy. Murder Inc, starring one of my favorite actors Peter Falk as Kid Twist, opened in theaters in 1960. And yes, you can get it on Netflix.

The final word to the Kid Twist affair is best quoted from a popular saying of the time, “not all canaries can fly.”

This has been your New York Minute.

 

 

An audio version of this legend recently appeared in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

 

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