Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime
James B. Jacobs
with Coleen Friel and Robert Radick
New York: New York University Press, 1999
329 p.

Subject, Methods, Database:
A study explores Cosa Nostra's grip on the Fulton Fish Market, JFK Airport, The Javits Convention Center, the waste-hauling industry and the construction industry in New York, and analyzes the efforts undertaken to free the city from mob influence. Data were obtained from newspaper reports, official documents and court files.

Cosa Nostra is distinctive, even unique, because it has successfully penetrated labor unions to seize control of legitimate industries. In New York, Cosa Nostra functioned as a kind of legislature, court, and police force for mobbed-up industries. The rules covered competition, prices, labor relations, payoffs, and respect. Businesses and individuals faced threats of violence, property damage, labor unrest and expulsion from the market for violating the rules. Cosa Nostra's power rested on the control of labor unions, a reputation for violence and the ability to exploit the weaknesses of the industries, most notably an extreme vulnerability to threats of delay. Market participants did not necessarily complain since they could pass costs on to consumers. Cosa Nostra was successfully purged from New York City's core economy during the 1990s through the application of innovative control measures, such as the appointment of monitors and trustees for mob-influenced businesses and union locals.

Gotham Unbound presents a detailed account of both the past history of mob control and the recent history of determined law-enforcement efforts. Each chapter contains a chronological list of events, an in-depth account and concluding remarks. As a result, certain facts are presented more than once. This and the amount of detail provided in the form of names, dates, trials and investigative committees will probably have a tiring effect on most readers. In contrast, the analytical portions of the book are unnecessarily short and sketchy.

Overall evaluation:
Gotham Unbound is more of a sober compilation of facts to demonstrate the dimension of Cosa Nostra's historical position of power, rather than a theoretically ambitious analysis of racketeering. Nonetheless, it is certainly one of the major contributions to the study of organized crime in recent years.

Further Reading:
Jacobs, James B., with Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington, Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra, New York: New York University Press, 1994.
Reuter, Peter, Racketeering in Legitimate Industries: A Study in the Economics of Intimidation, Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 1987.

© Klaus von Lampe, all rights reserved.