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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

White House of Ill Repute

The White House has had its Presidential scandals. Much has been well documented, and the home can be seen in photos everywhere.
However, there is another White House riddled with much darker doings in the past, located at 177 Benedict Road in Staten Island, NY, the former home of the notorious crime boss Constantino Paul Castellano. I journeyed to Staten Island to see the place for myself, and I believe these are the only photos you will find of this home.

In 1976, Big Paul Castellano succeeded Carlo Gambino (after his death) as head of the Gambino crime family, the largest Mafia family at the time in the United States.
Paul was born in Brooklyn in 1915, the youngest of three. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and learned to be a meat cutter in his father's butcher business. His life of crime began early - Paul also ran numbers for his father.

In the 1920s, Staten Island was sparsely populated and isolated - an ideal dumping ground for mafia victims as well as a place for bootlegging, extortion, loansharking, gambling, drug-dealing and smuggling, activities that emerged on the waterfront. By the mid-20th century, Staten Island became a residential enclave for Mafia dons, providing the seclusion they needed. In the 1980s, law enforcement officials estimated the number of "made" Mafia members living on Staten Island at around 60, with names like John Gotti, Aniello Dellacroce, Salvatore Gravano, Frank DeCicco, Thomas Pitera, Costabile Farace and many others.
Castellano's enormous mansion, a replica of the White House of the United States, was built in 1980 in Todt Hill on Staten Island.

At the time Castellano moved into this estate with his family, a Columbian housemaid, Gloria Olarte, began working. A full-blown love affair between Paul and Gloria developed under the eye of Castellano's wife, Nina. Although Mafiosi are known to keep a goomatta on the side while married, Castellano's behavior became more overt and problematic.
Knowing that Castellano conducted business from his home, the FBI planted bugs in Castellano's home in 1983 with the help of Olarte, who had been upset with the way her affair with Paul was going. Olarte let an FBI agent into their home, posing as a repairman. Over 600 hours of conversations detailing the Gambino family business were recorded.

Others in the organization were also not pleased with Castellano and his more mainstream business approach. On Dec. 16, 1985, Castellano and his driver, Thomas Bilotti, were murdered outside of Sparks Steak House at 210 East 46th Street, between Second & Third Avenues in Midtown Manhattan. The hit was ordered by John Gotti, who controlled the family until his 2002 death in prison. The gangland style murder was particularly shocking, occurring as it did during rush hour, in midtown Manhattan, and in modern times.

Not to be upstaged, New York City is proud to be home to its own White House of Ill Repute :)


Mary P. said...

Truly pretentious! I grew up in Middle Village, near where these guys did, before they got so rich.
My father's family owned a dairy, and stayed on the right side of the law. They did alright, and managed to stay out of jail.
(Did Olarte survive?)

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

Jay B. Wilson said...

Like a Newport mansion...great there a backstory on how you found yourself there?

Brian Dubé said...

Anon - Thanks.

Jay B. Wilson - I had heard about Todt Hill and had been there years ago. I knew that the mafia had a strong presence there. In reading, I came across a reference to the Castellano home and had to find the address and see it.

Fred Fata said...

Paul Castellano is the uncle to actor Richard Castellano, Clamenza from the Godfather.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting these pictures. I just finished reading Mafia Wife by Lynda Milito and she obviously spends a lot of time on Paul Castellano and his mansion. I was curious to see it, glad its still around, I see a road trip coming up :)

Anonymous said...

Mary P yes Olarte survived. She moved back to her homeland, and was in fact on a documentry about Castellano filmed a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Now Owned by Albanian Mob Boss.

Taking over the italian mob in NYC

Bart said...

What happened to this house? Does anyone live in it now?