From the river pirates of the 1800s to the mobsters of the 20th century, New York’s once-thriving waterfront had always been riddled with crime.
One man’s murder on a quiet West Village street in 1947 revealed just how depraved and corrupt the criminals who ran the piers could be.
On the morning of January 8, 1947, Anthony Hintz was leaving the third-floor apartment he shared with his wife at 61 Grove Street (right).
Hintz was headed to Pier 51, at the foot of Jane Street, where he was the hiring boss. His job was to run the “shape-up,” the process of deciding which longshoremen looking for a job that day would be picked to work.
Almost all of the city’s piers were run by hiring bosses under the thumb of crime syndicates. The bosses would demand kickbacks from men who wanted to work, and the money would be shared with the mobsters.
Pier 51 (below), however, was not controlled by the mob. Hintz refused to submit to gangsters.
Naturally, the mob want to get rid of Hintz. The job was undertaken by gangster and enforcer John “Cockeye” Dunn (left) and his associate, Andrew “Squint” Sheridan.
On January 8, these two killers with the noir-ish nicknames (along with a thug and former boxer named Danny Gentile) lay in wait for Hintz beside the stairwell in his building.
Dunn, Sheridan, and Gentile ambushed Hintz right just after he kissed his wife good-bye and walked out the door.
He was shot six times and lay bleeding in the hallway in front of his wife, who came out to see what was happened. “Johnny Dunn shot me,” he said.
Gravely injured, he was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital up Seventh Avenue. There, he held on long enough to tell police that Dunn was the shooter. Hintz died three weeks later.
Dunn and Sheridan were quickly arrested; Gentile turned himself in a few months later. All three were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to the electric chair.
Gentile was lucky; his sentence was commuted. Dunn and Sheridan, ruthless and remorseless, were electrocuted in 1949.
If any of this real-life mob murder sounds familiar, here’s why: the story of Hintz’s murder and an exhaustive New York Sun series about it inspired Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront.
[Second photo: mafia.wikia.com; third photo: NYPL Digital Gallery; fourth image: New York Times headline July 8, 1949]