Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Local Queens parishioners miss Gambino crime boss John Gotti in their neighborhood

Church worker Felipe Vargas shows the headless statue of the Virgin Mary after it was vandalized at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Catholic Church in Ozone Park.

They had faith in the Godfather.

A statue of the Virgin Mary located blocks from the former Bergin Hunt and Fish Club wouldn’t have been decapitated if John Gotti and his crew were still around, parishioners of the Ozone Park church targeted in the attack said Monday.

Locals said such an act 'wouldn’t have happened' back when late Gambino crime boss John Gotti was running the neighborhood.

The Jan. 5 vandalizing of the stone-carved religious icon adjacent to St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish on 101st Ave. is being investigated as a hate crime — but congregants insisted the departed Don would have solved the week-old crime already.

“When he was here it was a quiet neighborhood,” said Ralph Francisco, 70, a lifelong congregant at the church, and the owner of Francisco’s Funeral Home across the street. “Now we have drugs being sold on the street. And this thing here, it never would have happened [if Gotti was around].”

The three men in the middle are Angelo Ruggiero, Gotti and Carmine Fatico, whose 'Bergin Crew' used the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club as a hangout.

Church officials discovered the 4-foot statue decapitated last Monday morning, and the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is investigating, officials said.

The Gambino crime boss, who died in 2002, never counted himself as a parishioner at the church — he attended St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Howard Beach — but parishioners recall his bond with the 110-year-old institution, which hosted his daughter Victoria Gotti’s wedding in 1984.

Gotti was given 'The Teflon Don" nickname after three high-profile trials on the 1980s ended in his acquittal. He was undone when his underboss, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, turned state's evidence in 1991.

Francisco recalled that Gotti’s men apprehended thieves who broke into a safe at the church and returned the stolen dough to grateful parish officials. These days, a church custodian says he often has to chase away drunken high schoolers from the courtyard where the statue once stood.

“He helped a lot of people — they liked him,” said Pablo Garcia, 62. “He wasn’t a nice guy, but they liked him.”

The Gambino mobster wasn't a parshioner of St. Mary Gate of Heaven, but his daughter Victoria Gotti was married there in 1984.

Even the local community board weighed in with support for Gotti, who died of throat cancer in a prison hospital in Missouri.

“We never had any problems when he was there, I can tell you that,” said Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9. “This all started a year ago or two.”

The decapitation of the statue is being investigated as a hate crime.

Once known as the “Teflon Don,” the mobster used to throw Fourth of July parties in the street with free hot dogs and fireworks. While such events are relics in an area that has long since turned from an Italian-American stronghold to a polyglot, the crime struck a chord with another parishioner buying meat at the Pork Shop butchery facing the brick cathedral.

“The church is the icon of the neighborhood, it’s like the only thing left,” said retired truck driver John Russo, 69. “There’s no Italians around here anymore.”

But Father Gerald Fitzsimmons, who became pastor at St. Mary’s Gate of Heaven in the 1970s, dismissed Gotti’s connection to Ozone Park. He cited Latino and Guyanese parishioners at the church and knocked any notion that the moblord would have prevented the crime.

“When you have a neighborhood changing and the predominate group is still predominate then that group is comfortable,” said Fitzsimmons. “When that starts to change, then people start to say ‘This is not the neighborhood I grew up in.’”

“We’re all New Yorkers,” he added. “That’s what I tell everyone.”



Post a Comment