Two years ago, I had the pleasure of guiding Meyer Lansky II, the grandson of notorious 20th century mobster Meyer Lansky, around his ancestral stomping ground on The Lower East Side. The tour was covered by The Wall Street Journal (read the article here).
I knew Meyer II for a few years and really wanted to give him a memorable experience; something that he couldn’t find in the many books, articles, movies and television shows produced about his family. So I scoured hundreds of sources that I’ve collected over the years to chronicle an accurate timeline of his grandfather’s footsteps. Below is some of the research I presented to him.
Born in 1902 as Meier Suchowlański in what is now Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), young Meyer Lansky and his Polish-Jewish family immigrated to America about 1909 — only, not to the Lower East Side, as many books claim — but to Brooklyn, New York.
The Suchowlański’s first known address in America is 240 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, where they resided between 1909 and 1912. The family is then recorded living at 33 Chester Street for a short time in 1912, before soon moving to 894 Rockaway Avenue for about two years between 1912 and 1914. During that time, Meyer Lansky attended school at P.S. 84, formally located on Osborn and Watkins Streets (1911-1912), and then P.S. 165, located at 76 Lott Avenue (1912-1914).
It wasn’t until 1914 that 12-year old Meyer Lansky and his family migrated to The Lower East Side of Manhattan, where their first known address was a third floor apartment at 546 Grand Street, in which they stayed until 1917 before moving a few buildings east, to the fourth floor of 552 Grand Street. He attended PS 34 on Sheriff and Broome Street between 1914 and 1917. (The school closed in 1928.)
By 1920, the family took up residence at 6 Columbia Street. By this time, 19-year old Meyer Lansky had befriended other teenage neighborhood toughs such as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (who lived at 36 Columbia Street) and Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (who lived at 265 East 10th Street) — a story which has been told countless times with varying degrees of accuracy.
Meyer’s father, Max Lansky, and family, attended the historic Bialystoker Synagogue at 7 Willett Street, as did the family of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who has a memorial plaque on the wall.
What many people do not know is that Meyer Lansky, who is often cited as an architect of modern organized crime, was a skilled machinist, applying his trade at various companies as a young man.
Meyer Lansky’s first job as a young boy was at the D. & L. Tool Company, formerly on Centre Street just north of Canal Street. His second place of employment was at the massive R. & Hoe Company, which took up an entire block at 504-520 Grand Street — just a couple of blocks from Meyer’s home. Finally, he worked at Richard Mirror Works, which Lansky himself once reminisced was “Somewhere on Greene Street” (though I can’t find any addresses for it).
Sometime by the late nineteen-teens or early nineteen-twenties, Lansky and Siegel opened up a shop (supposedly financed by Arnold Rothstein), which the pair eventually used to traffic alcohol during Prohibition. Many references say the garage was located “On Cannon Street” just “a few yards south of the police station on Delancey Street.”
The only problem is that there was never a police station on Delancey at Cannon Street. If the shop was indeed on the same block as a police station, it would have been the old 7th Precinct on Delancey and Clinton Streets. (This is what happens when “experts” write books with no firsthand knowledge of the subject matter.)
By the 1930s, Meyer Lansky had moved out of The Lower East Side ghetto, used many aliases, took up several NYC residences over the years and was involved in a number of legitimate local businesses. Below is a list:
Meyer Lansky Aliases:
- Meyer The Bug
- Bugsy Meyer
- The Bug
- Little Meyer
- Myer Lazansky
- Morris Lieberman
- Meyer Suchowltansky
- Jonny Eggs
- The Little Guy
Meyer Lansky residences:
- NE corner of 99th Street and Broadway (1934-1936)
- 411 West End Avenue (1942)
- 211 Central Park West, Apt 19J (1943)
- 40 Central Park South, apt 14C
- 30 Central Park South
- Essex House, 160 Central Park South
- 911 Central Park West, Apartment 9G (1952)
- 36 E. 36th Street, Penthouse D (1954 – 1957)
- St. Moritz Hotel, 50 Central Park South (1957)
Meyer Lansky businesses:
- Lansky Food Corporation, Jersey City, NJ
- (1934-1940) “Krieg, Spector and Citron,” which had three locations: 500 Broad Street, Newark, NJ; 727 Monroe Street, Hoboken, New Jersey; 8 Concourse East, Jersey City
- (1947) Vice president of “Emby Distributing Company,” 525 West Forty-Third Street
- (1943) “Manhattan Simplex Distributing Company,” 525 West 43rd Street
- (1942) “Panuth Real Estate Corporation”
- (1942) “Rosepot Real Estate Corporation”
He also owned a 25% stake in property at:
- 922 Lexington Avenue
- Lexington and 73rd Street
- Madison Avenue and 73rd Street
Some of the places Meyer Lansky frequented:
- Dinty Moore’s Restaurant, 216 W. 46th Street
- Billy Gwon’s Chinese Restaurant, 128 W. 52nd Street
- Forum Restaurant, 57 W. 48th Street
- Stouffer’s Restaurant, 666 Fifth Avenue
- Italian Pavilion Restaurant, 24 W. 55th Street
- Savoy Plaza Hotel Barber Shop, Fifth Avenue and 58th Street
- The office of Moses (Moe) Polakoff, (Lansky’s attorney), 475 5th Avenue
I do a seasonal Mafia walking tour, for anyone interested in organized crime on the Lower East Side.