A Bath Ave. Story: Kill One of Ours, We Kill Two of Yours

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, mobsters and associates were routinely murdered in New York's five boroughs.

In places like Bath Avenue, the remains of violent gangland hits were found in car trunks or slumped over steering wheels; they ripened in the backs of trucks and vans. Some were buried, many never to be found. The victims were shot late at night or in the early morning when no witnesses were around. But bullets also flew in broad daylight, sometimes just across the street from a police station.
George Conte in middle.

Often, law enforcement--NYPD, DA's detectives, the Feds--knew who the killer was, but knowing and having the evidence to prove it in court are two different things and can be worlds apart.


George Conte back then was a capo in the Luchese family. Called "Georgie Goggles," he and Luchese capo George "Georgie Neck" Zappola were later charged for the slaying of painters union official and potential government witness James Bishop on orders from underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

[Kenji Gallo has written about Conte on his Breakshot Blog: "[Conte] and the other Brooklyn capos [of the Luchese family] did not like the fact that after Gaspipe went away the power of the family shifted back to the Bronx with Steve Crea and his faction running the family. Steve Crea is more what Tommy Lucchese had in mind for the future of his family.  Steve is in construction and that is where the big money comes from for the family. So George and the others decided to kill Steve Crea but it never went down."

[Conte, who was reportedly busted down to soldier, likely with the rest of the Brooklyn Luchese faction, and Zappola got out of prison in March of this year.]

Jimmy Calandra (seated, far right); Luchese's Frank Lastorino stands behind Calandra;
Gambino capo Joe Gambino is next to Lastorino; sitting next to Calandra is Luchese's
Patty Dello Russo; Florida wiseguy Michael Sessa is next to Patty

Conte was around 10 years older than members of the Bath Avenue Crew who lost one of their own in December of 1991. Georgie Adamo, godson to then-Bonanno acting boss Anthony Spero, was murdered.

Adamo had a troubled life and took up crime at an early age; eventually he stole mainly to feed a voracious drug habit. He'd lost his father while an infant. In 1975, NYPD officers came to the family's Bensonhurst, Brooklyn home to tell Georgie's mother that her husband had been murdered. A suspected Gambino associate, his body was found with that of another man; both had been shot in the head and then tied in blankets and tossed in the back of a stolen van. Spero stepped up to act as the boy's godfather.

The murder devastated the Bath Avenue Crew. Paulie Gulino, who'd been mentored  by Tommy "Karate" Pitera and ran the crew, said: "We gotta get revenge. It's our friend and this ain't right."

Steven Romano was the killer. The cops knew this but there were no witnesses.

Georgie had tried to rob "Fat Stevie," who dealt crack cocaine. He got into Stevie's car with a knife and Fat Stevie took the knife from him and plunged it into Georgie's heart, killing him. He died in front of his house inside the car.

Paulie G told the others to find Romano and kill him. But Romano, who knew Adamo was connected to Spero, disappeared from Brooklyn and hid in Manhattan, though occasionally he'd visit Neil Nastro, who lived by the intersection of 15th and Benson.

Anthony Spero with his godson, Little Georgie Adamo.

When the Bath Avenue Crew learned this, Paulie G changed the order: "Kill Neil. We can't get to Romano, so we'll kill his friend." The only potential problem was that Neil was on record with George Conte. There could be some blowback.

The hit was organized and the team locked and loaded. Jimmy Calandra was wheelman and driving with him were William "Applehead" Galloway, Joey Calco and Tommy Reynolds.

Around Bay Street and Cropsey Avenue, they beeped Neil. This was 1992; beepers were all the rage, especially among drug dealers like Neil and Fat Stevie. Instead of calling first, Neil drove to meet them. Apparently, Neil had no inkling of potential danger; when beeped and given an intersection, he'd driven straight there. Only that time he had a driving companion: his uncle.

Neil pulled over on Bay 8th and Cropsey. Calandra was parked not far away. Reynolds and Calco got out of the car and walked up to Neil. Reynolds opened the driver's door, put a .357 Magnum to Neil's head and blew his brains out. Then, he trained the gun on the uncle and fired one into his head. Reynolds and Calco then robbed any cash and cocaine they found within.

"The guy was all wired up," Reynolds said later, by way of explanation for shooting the uncle. At the time, the crew had no idea who Neil had been driving with. Also, Calco apparently touched a car door, leaving prints. They were never connected to him though.


The two hurried back into the car. Doors slammed and Calandra put the pedal to the metal and took off. The car hurtled down the street, shoveling away from the scene of the double-homicide. A bystander picked the wrong time to cross the street. Calandra hit the person, sending him flying through the air.

Georgie Adamo, middle, Paulie Gulino on left, Jimmy Calandra right.

"I feel like Action Jackson!" Applehead yelled, referencing the 1988 Carl Weathers action film.

Calandra headed for Staten Island, pulling over first on the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge to drop the gun in the icy waters of the Narrows, the tidal strait separating Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Jimmy dropped Calco and Reynolds off at the Staten Island mall parking lot, where their cars were parked. He and Applehead drove back to Brooklyn. Calandra then stopped to check in with Paulie G, who was at Gregs Inn. He told Gulino the details. None of them knew if the guy Neil was driving with (the unfortunate uncle) was connected to anyone in the Mafia, Gulino noted.

Early 1992 was a busy time for the Bath Avenue Crew. The situation with Mikey Hamster was still going on. Hamster tried to take credit for the murder of John Polio, which is why the Bath Avenue Crew was gunning for him in the first place. Only Hamster had nothing to do with the murder.

Polio was selling drugs with Albert Slavin for Conte.

Polio had pissed off a lot of people before his murder. Word on the street was he'd been screwing the wife of a Luchese mobster (the one for whom he dealt drugs). Polio also had problems with Bobby DeCicco, son of Gambino crime family heavyweight George DeCicco. "Big George" DeCicco, who died this past October of natural causes, was part of John Gotti's inner circle. The Dapper Don was arrested in 1991, and a year later turned into the Velcro Don and was convicted. Prior to his arrest he'd been at the pinnacle of his power and his word was practically law in the Bath Beach area (ah, the good old days, in so many different ways...).

The Bath Avenue Crew three times had gone after Hamster, but missed each time.

Two weeks after the double hit, Calandra got a phonecall from Charles “Charlie Tuna” Giustra, who was married to Frankie Mariconda’s sister. Frankie was a Gambino associate then not long for this world. He died later that same year, shot to death by Frank "Frankie Bones" Papagni, a Luchese captain. Luchese capos were killing people left and right in those days, when Casso and Vittorio "Little Vic" Amuso were running the family.

"You around?" Charlie Tuna asked Calandra.

Calandra was around, he told Charlie Tuna.

"Come by."

"Gimme an hour," Calandra said.

Calandra called Tommy Reynolds to tell him what's going on.

"Jimmy! Don’t go! Tell Paulie! Tuna is with the Little Guy!" Reynolds shouted at him over the phone. Conte was called "The Little Guy." Neil and his uncle were both with Conte, the Crew had since learned. Neil had been handing the Luchese capo a portion of his cocaine proceeds every week. But he wasn't doing so anymore because Reynolds had blown his head off.

"Bring Paulie with you!" Reynolds yelled at Jimmy before they hung up.

Gulino took the call from Jimmy in stride. Just mob life in Brooklyn in 1992.

"Want me to come with you?" he asked Jimmy,

"No. I got my gun," Calandra said. "I'm just letting you know what's going on...." he said, not finishing the sentence.

Purring through the Brooklyn Streets in his Corvette, Calandra arrived at his destination, near Bay 13th and Cropsey.

He walked up the three steps that led to the screened front door. Through the screen, he saw Charlie Tuna inside sitting on the couch. Tuna held up a hand and said nonchalantly, "C'mon in Jimmy!"

Calandra opened the door and put one foot inside the house. Then he froze. Faintly, he heard the floor creak. In a split second he made a fast calculation: he hadn't made the floor creak; Charlie Tuna hadn't made the floor creak. But straight across the room from Jimmy was a wall, behind which was a staircase that rose to the second floor. The guy hiding on the stairs made the floor creak...  

Calandra instinctively pulled out his gun. His heart raced. "Fight or flight" kicked in, the body's inborn muscle memory defense system. Calandra jetted back to his Corvette and sped away.

Rounding Bay 23rd and Bath Avenue, the 'vette screeched to a hault. Standing there on the street corner were Pauli G and Bonanno capo Joe Benante, who served as the crew's conduit to Spero.

Calandra walked up to them and told them what happened. "It was like they were gonna ambush me," he said.

Just then, another car came to an abrupt hault. George Conte was the driver. He rolled the window down and called out: “Jimmy, I want to talk to you!”

Calandra took a few steps toward Conte.

"I just left Tuna’s house and you’re driving over here now," Calandra said. "Were you in that house?"

"Jimmy, would I do that to you? I know you you're whole life..."

Conte got out of the car and walked away with Calandra to speak privately.

"Look, Jimmy, tell Tommy and Joey to get out of town," Conte said.

Calandra stopped and called Gulino over.

"He’s telling me that Tommy and Joey had something to do with Neil," Calandra told Paulie G, referring to Conte who was standing right there.

Gulino looked at Conte. "Georgie, what's going on?"

Before Conte could get too many words out, Gulino stopped him.

"You killed one of ours. We killed two of yours. Now we're even."

"Jimmy is over here with you guys?" Conte asked. He was too young for it to have been a senior moment. Perhaps it was an absentminded pronouncement of guilt?

"Yeah, but you know that." Gulino glared at him and then walked back to Benante.

Calandra had known Conte since he was 7 years old. In fact, when he was 12-13 years old, Conte needed to redecorate his house, so he invited Calandra and other kids to come over for a sort of playtime, Brooklyn style. He armed them with bats and axes and told them to destroy as much of the interior of the house as they could.

Later after the ambush, Calandra found out that Conte thought the Bath Avenue Bonanno associates had killed Neil in revenge for the murder of Polio.

When Calandra was doing time in prison, he grew closer to Conte.

They talked about a lot of things. Calandra recalled one night when he and some friends were eating at a diner on Cropsey and Bay 25th when in walked a guy called "Frankie Sharp."

"He's a manipulator," Conte interjected. "I'm gonna kill him when I get out of here."


This story is based on a draft of a chapter in Jimmy Calandra's memoir, which he furnished us with. He expects to be finished by April of 2015.




Comments

  1. Austin McDonnellNov 21, 2014, 7:24:00 AM

    I love reading about these guys!! They were some wild ass kids......to say the least!

    ReplyDelete
  2. No one has anything to say? Did I stun you all into silence? I'm gonna win the best, Jimmy Boy!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Austin McDonnellNov 21, 2014, 9:21:00 AM

    I posted a comment but it hasn't shown up for some reason

    ReplyDelete
  4. Write after I commented I found it; stuck in the hopper!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post Ed, great story and do I see a book version of Jimmy's story in the future

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ed, how does Calandra walk around Brooklyn so freely?? surely hes a target to be popped

    ReplyDelete
  7. Even though he.s a target the guy or guys who kill him might as well kill themselves because they will be the hunted ones then and if u hire outside help it cost money and could come back to bite u in the ass. I dont know who he rated on and other crews dont care it has nothing to do with them why draw heat on themselvs so the guy he gave up handles it or lives with it just my opinion. Philly

    ReplyDelete
  8. He left the program, so the feds probably will not spend any more money on protecting him or prosecuting the would be killers.Especially in the midst of the budget cuts. They worry about ahmed and mohammed now. It would be different if an fbi agent got clipped but not an informant.

    ReplyDelete

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