The Five Points Gang was a 19th-century criminal organization based in the Sixth Ward (The Five Points) of New York City.
The Five Points
In Manhattan the area where five streets : Mulberry (still the same name) , Anthony (now Worth), Cross (now Park), Orange (now Baxter), and Little Water (which no longer exists at all) all converged became known as "The Five Points". This area was located between Broadway and the Bowery, and it is now roughly the northern part of the downtown area. By the 1820's this district was starting to fall into disrepair, and it showed. It was considered to be a slum of the city. There were many gambling dens and "houses of ill repute" in the Five Points area, and as a result it received bad reputation. It was known as a dangerous place to go to, and an area where many people had been mugged, particularly at night-time.
In 1842 Charles Dickens(Famous writer) visited the area and was appalled at the horrendous living conditions he had seen while he was there. In this decade a movement to reform the district was undertaken by various church groups. They were intent on helping the people that inhabitted the Five Points area. This area was so notorious at the time that it even caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln. So, in 1860 he decided to visit the area before he made his Cooper Union Address. The Sixth Ward also had a bad reputation; it was known as an area with a corrupt political process, this was more particularly after the American Civil War. One shining example was the election where the number of ballots that were received was higher than the number of actual registered voters in the area at the time.
Irish gangs such as the Whyos, replacing the Dead Rabbits(Portrait in the movie 'Gangs of NY'), were composed mainly of Irish members and they fought with the predominantly Jewish gangs such as Monk Eastman'sEastman Gang, who were also terrorizing New York neighborhoods. Sicilian immigrant and criminal Paolo Antonini Vaccareli, also known as Paul Kelly, formed the Italian Five Points Gang. This group would become the most significant street gang in American history and ultimately change the way criminal groups operated in America. During the gang's later years, Kelly's second in command was a brutal criminal named Johnny Torrio, who would help form a national crime syndicate in the United States. The Five Points Gang had a well-earned reputation for brutality, and in battles with rival gangs they would often fight to the death. Kelly and Torrio recruited members from other gangs in New York to join the Five Points organization, looking for the most capable and brutal members from rival gangs to join their own. From the James Street Gang came another notable recruit, Al Capone, later to become one of the most notorious criminals in the country and was stated as Public Enemy Nr. 1 by the FBI in the '30s. It was Johnny Torrio who initially sent for Capone to come to Chicago to help him with racketeering he had established there. The man who would later become the most powerful criminal in the country, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, also joined the Five Points crew.
War with the Monk Eastman Gang
Together with Frankie Yale, one of Paul Kelly's top Lieutenants, they found out that there was lots of money involved with the support of corrupt politicians.
The only real rival of the Five Points Gang was the Monk Eastmans Gang. In 1901 a gang member of the Five Points shot Monk Eastman in his stumach. Eastman survived the murder attempt and ordered one of his gang members to kill a Five Pointer.
Because of this a war between the two gangs broke out. In 1903 Kelly, Johnny Torrio and approximately 50 other members of the Five Points got into a fire fight with about 50 Monk Eastman gang members witch lasted a couple of hours. 3 people got killed and another 10 were injured. After the fire fight Monk Eastman was arrested but he was released thanks to a corrupt judge.
A top level politician decided that this war had to end so he arranged a meeting with Paul Kelly and Monk Eastman. After the conversation both men shook hands and it seemed that the war would cool down, but about 2 months later again the 2 gangs were fighting each other.
So again a meeting was arranged and this time they came up with a sollution... A boxing match between Paul Kelly and Monk Eastman. In his early days Kelly was a boxer, but Monk was a bigger man than Kelly.
For about 2 hours both men fought in a warehouse in the Bronx, surrounded with members from both gangs. But the fight ended in a draw, so both Kelly and Monk were still at war.
Again the New York politician decided this had come to an end, he took care of the fact that every corrupt politician chose the side of the Five Pointers, causing Monk Eastman to lose every support from the politicians.
In 1904 Monk Eastman was knocked out by a police officer while Monk broke in a house. He was sentenced for 10 years at Sing Sing prison. When Monk was in jail Max 'Kid Twist' Zwerbach took over, but he was shot to dead in 1908 by a member of the Five Points Gang, Louis Pioggi, causing the Monk Eastman Gang to collapse.
Paolo Vaccarelli/Paul Kelley survived an attempt on his own life, shot three times by two of his own lieutenants, James T. "Biff" Ellison and Pat "Razor" Riley, in a gun battle inside one of his own nightclubs. Pressure from Tammany Hall forced him to keep a lower profile after this incident. He subsequently became more involved in the nascent labor union rackets and he ended up dying of natural causes in 1936.
After Monk Eastman was finally released in 1909, he was never able to regain the leadership of the criminal organization he had started, and fell into a life of petty crime and numerous jail terms. Within a few years, Eastman joined the army as a 44-year-old man to fight in World War I, and had a distinguished military record fighting in combat as fearlessly as he had on the streets of New York. He received an honorable discharge in 1919, but a year later was shot 5 times and killed by a Prohibition agent. He was given a funeral with full military honors.
The rackets and criminal activities that the Five Points Gang had established were taken over by the Mafia gangs that were becoming more powerful in the first twenty years of the century. Former Five Pointers like Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, Frankie Yale and Charles Luciano became the new leadership of these groups and expanded their operations on a national and international basis. With the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, profits from bootlegged liquor became a huge earner for these groups, and what had been the Five Points Gang were absorbed into these tham bam families.