Coney Island’s infamous Half Moon Hotel

Astroland at Coney Island is sadly being dismantled ride by ride this month. It’s kind of going the way of the Half Moon Hotel—once a majestic, Spanish Colonial–style resort right on the boardwalk.

Opened in 1927, the Half Moon was supposed to compete with then-luxe Atlantic City and attract upscale crowds to Coney rather than just hordes of working-class day-trippers.

halfmoonhotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that didn’t exactly happen. In the 1930s, the hotel teetered on the brink of foreclosure; it eeked out a profit by hosting banquets and conventions. 

And then Abe “Kid Twist” Reles moved in. Reles was a gangster with Murder, Inc. who turned informant after he was charged with homicide in 1940. While he testified at different trials, he lived under police protection at the Half Moon, guarded by six cops and watched at all times.

aberelesmugshot Abe Reles, prior to taking up residence at the Half Moon. Looks like he knew what was in store for him.

 

 

 

 

 

In the early hours of November 12, 1941, Reles was found dead, flat on his back on the roof of the hotel kitchen far below his sixth-floor window. Bed sheets tied together like a makeshift rope made it seem like he fell to his death while trying to escape.

Or was he pushed? In the 1960s, mob boss Lucky Luciano said that police were paid $50,000 to toss Reles out the window. No one knows for sure, and the Half Moon—knocked down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizens’ home—took its secrets to the grave.

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9 Responses to “Coney Island’s infamous Half Moon Hotel”

  1. m Says:

    I’ve often been told by older folks that I look exactly like ‘Abe Reles’. I never knew who they meant as I thought they were saying ‘Relish’, but now I know. And from this mugshot photo, I must admit they were right. Love your site!

  2. Clinton Missouri Hotels Says:

    It looks like it was a very cool old hotel. It is always a shame when they have to tear down a historic building to make room for new construction. I really like your site. Lots of great, interesting topics. Brian
    Clinton Missouri Hotels

  3. Paul cooper Says:

    Word has it that I was the last baby born at Harbor Hospital in Coney Island on June 12, 1950 at 4:30 p.m. I wonder if that could be verified. They didn’t want any more after me!

  4. sarah sutherland Says:

    Hi, I”mso curious. Were there babies born in the harbor hospital in 1942. My birth certificate says I was born there in Jan. 27th, 1942. But I read that it was a materaty hospital in the middle to late 40,s.

  5. frank jacobi Says:

    I am now 81 y.o. and lived on the corner of 29th in a apt. bldg.
    and i remember the news that a gangster was pushed out the window of the Half Moon Hotel. I was ten years old at the time.
    That apartment building was originally a hotel, I believe. And had Salt water pumped into the bathroom from the ocean. I think the address was 2929 West 29th st,

  6. Vintage ads on Brooklyn business matchbooks « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] 1941, the Half Moon earned a place in mob history: Murder, Inc. turncoat Abe “Kid Twist” Reles plunged to his death from his sixth floor room there under mysterious [...]

  7. Curt Evan Says:

    Reles could have linked Murder Inc to Umburto Anastasia. Thus the powerful Mafiosi had no choice but to try. There is no evidence of any attempt. Killing him in route to court in the morning would be too risky but one must concede that it was better than having to also rub out 6 cops as well as Reles. The prosecutors would have unleashed unbridled fury if that happened. Thus I conclude the reason there was no attempt the night before is because it merged into the incident if Reles’ plunge from his 6th story room. The filthy murderer was executed by Cosa Nostra. Anastasia walked so he could surprisingly be butchered by Frank Costello before the arrival of the 60’s. Lucky Luciano asserted that police were paid $50,000 to throw the stinking killer out of his window. The knotted sheet could easily have been conjured up by seasoned homicide detectives seeking to cover the “hit.” Each cop should be asked on his deathbed! But I conclude Reles of Murder Inc was murdered by his master, the Executioner Umberto Anastasia. The haunt of the Half Moon was never to be lifted. All of it awaits justice from on high.

  8. Louie Franco Says:

    I recently found an old photo of my parents wedding dinner party at the Hotel Half Moon. It was taken on June 8th 1941. It’s sad to learn that the Hotel was torn down for new construction.

  9. perry Victor Says:

    I was lucky to be born in Coney Island, at the Harbor Hospital, on Dec. 6, 1949.

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