American Mobsters – The Hudson Dusters Street Gang

The Hudson Dusters were an unruly street gang that ruled the Greenwich Village area of New York City, starting in the late 1890’s. They were formed by the trio of Kid Yorke, Circular Jack and Goo Goo Knox, who was a former gang member of the Gophers, a group that ruled Hell’s Kitchen a few blocks to the north. Knox tried to take control of the Gophers, failed, then moved south to terrorize a different neighborhood, which was open to whichever gang could take command. The Dusters crushed local gangs like the Potashes and the Boodles, then took control of the Greenwich Village and the business of plundering the docks along the Hudson River, a few blocks to the west.

The crooked streets of Greenwich Village were perfect for getaways after the Dusters committed one of their varied crimes. Their most accomplished thief was Ding Dong, who would roam the streets with a dozen or so youths. He would direct them to jump on passing wagons and toss to him any valuables they could get their hands on. Before the police could respond, Ding Dong was long gone, having disappeared down the maze of streets that comprise the Village.

The Gophers became street legends, but they were not particularly known for their fighting prowess, as were other brutal New York City gangs. They hung out in the taverns and gin mills of the Village, mingling with the famous writers and artists of their time. The journalists also favored the Dusters, and they were portrayed in the newspapers as nothing more than a fun-loving bunch, who drank more than they fought. One of the Duster’s party pals was playwright Eugene O’Neil, who frequented the gang’s hangout – the Hell Hole, on Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street. It was there that O’Neil garnered most of his characters for his most famous play – The Iceman Cometh – the Iceman being Death.

At their inception, the Dusters moved their base of operations frequently, finally settling on a house on Hudson Street, just below Horatio, later the site of the Open Door Mission. More interested in partying than pillaging, the Dusters installed a piano and they danced the nights away, in a cocaine induced stupor, with the prostitutes who prowled the West Side piers a few short blocks away. This annoyed the neighboring homeowners and business owners to no end, but all were afraid to make a complaint to the police, because the Dusters had the reputation of seeking revenge in a hot moment on anyone who would rat. After a night of carousing, the Dusters were known to parade in the streets, boozed out and hopped-up on coke, looking to cause mayhem on anyone, or anything in their path.

One night, the Dusters asked a local saloon keeper to provide them with a few kegs of beer for a party, on the arm, of course, meaning they did not expect to actually pay the man money for his stock. The saloon keeper refused and the Dusters descended up his establishment, wrecking the joint and carrying away every ounce of booze on the premises. The saloon keeper ran to his friend Patrolman Dennis Sullivan. Patrolman Sullivan decided to declare war on the Dusters. He rounded up ten of them, including their leader Red Farrell, and arrested them for vagrancy.

The Dusters decided to retaliate, and with the blessing of a Greenwich Village politician, who used the Dusters for intimidation on Election Day, they ambushed Patrolmen Sullivan as he was about to arrest one of the Dusters on a robbery charge. They attacked him from behind and stole his jacket, gun and shield, while beating him with stones and blackjacks. As many as twenty Dusters took turns kicking and punching the distressed policeman after he was down. When Patrolman Sullivan was finally unconscious, four Dusters rolled him onto his back and ground their heels into his face, causing permanent scars. Patrolman Sullivan was finally taken to the hospital, where he stayed, recuperating for over a month.

The Gophers Street Gang congratulated the Dusters on their cop-beating accomplishment, and Gopher leader, “One Lung” Curran, felt moved enough to write a poem, praising their actions. The poem read:

Says Dinny “Here’s me only chance
To gain meself a name;
I’ll clean up the Hudson Dusters,
and reach the hall of fame.”
He lost his stick and cannon,
and his shield they took away.
It was then he remembered,
Every dog had his day.

The Dusters loved this poem so much, they printed up hundreds of copies and distributed them on the streets of Greenwich Village, even dropping one off at the Charles Street Station House, where Patrolman Sullivan was assigned.

By 1916, The Dusters had dissipated, as most of their gang members were either coke addicts, dead, or locked up in jail. Another Greenwich Village gang, the Marginals, led by Tanner Smith, took over the Duster’s rackets, and they controlled the Village until Tanner was killed by Chicky Lewis, inside the Marginal Club on Eighth Avenue, on July 29, 1919. For all practical purposes, that was the end of street gang presence on the Lower West Side.

Security Guard Faces Gang Leader Holding a Knife

Security guard VS knife wielding gang

Because of my military background and security skills I would get assigned to some really dangerous crime hot spots. I had another good security guard partner who would mostly work with me on these type of jobs. We were known as the troubleshooters because as soon as a client had security troubles we would go and clean it up.

Western suburbs of Sydney

People make comments about the worst suburbs in each city I have been in and I have learnt that they don’t know what they are talking about. These people only go by the newspapers or other peoples vague assumptions. I have worked in all the so-called bad areas of cities and it becomes clear when you think about the following facts.

Most people never go out in these suburbs after dark anyway or even go at all
The people making the comments are heavily fed so called news which is just hyped up story covers. The real dangerous incidents never make the papers in case you don’t ever leave your house again.

If you have never seen a fight before or a drug deal then it will seem worse than it is and you will tell all your friends the exciting events. This story gets repeated and becomes more dangerous each time.


Some people are quick to call a group of strange looking youths a gang, but this is not correct. During the 1980’s gangs of youths were common around public malls and train stations as a place to hang out and see the world going around. Some looked scary and would intimidate people by swearing and verbal threats.

Showdown in the alley

This particular shopping centre had a problem with a gang of about 20 Asian males about 16-22 years of age. My partner and I had been working here for a couple of days and had been effective enough that the gang decided to threaten us so we would leave them alone.

During one of our nightly external patrols we were going around the back of the centre. This was a narrow area of about 10 metres wide with a chain link fence barrier on one side and the brick wall on the other. We had walked into the strip when the gang had arrived from the other side.

They formed up into a tight group of about 15 members whispering threats and harm to us if we didn’t leave them alone. The leader of the group stepped forward and showed that he had one of those butterfly knives in his hand.

Children should not play with knives

The knife was a chromed wavy blade butterfly style knife. He started spinning the blade and the handles in his hands. This type of knife has folding handles and spins quickly with a trained knife fighter. Unfortunately for him I have been trained by knife fighting experts and I could see he wasn’t one. I think he expected me to run in fear or something.

I stepped forward and prompted him to take me on and I would fight unarmed. The rest of his gang looked about concerned about my lack of fear and started to step back a bit. I knew then that I had the gang if I defeated the leader.

I stepped about two metres away from the leader and he started spinning the silvered knife faster. Too fast for his training I expect because it flew out of his hands on landed on the ground in between us. There was a considerable silence as the gang moved further back.

I offered him the opportunity to pick up as I wanted a fair fight.

He looked to his gang and saw no love their or support for him. They started walking away as they apologised to us. The gang leader was still standing and not moving to pick the knife up. I picked the knife up and moved next to him for a quiet chat.

The next day the gang no longer bothered the shopping centre and the client was amazed at how quick we got rid of them.

Just rewards

For our efforts we were assigned to another client site and we went to work again.

On some days I still remember the look on his face when the knife spun out of his hands and landed near me. I think it is appropriate that someone that appreciates knives should have it and it always reminds me of how weak gangs really are when you target their leader with confidence.

The knife still spins beautifully.

The reality

These people are in gangs because they are not strong enough by themselves and need to feel secure by numbers and threatening displays. If you are ever confronted with gangs or groups of potential trouble that you can’t avoid, remember this.

The gang wont stay together without a group bond. The strength they have is their confidence that you wont attack them back and others in their group will protect them if you do.

However, no one likes to get hurt generally, especially the followers. Once you have identified who the leader is you are half way to beating them. He needs his followers to support him or he wouldn’t be leading a gang. If you have to fight let him know that it is him that you will target with all your punches and strikes-no one else. Make it clear that you understand that you may get hurt but you will put him in hospital as well. Make it personal and the followers will often not get involved. You can call it a challenge to the leaders right to be the leader.

I hope that you never need to defend yourself from a gang, but the reality is that I have seen people randomly attacked by cowardly groups and repeat offenders, and you need to know that they have been beaten before if you don’t panic.

© Copyright 2008 by Paul Baker

Chicago’s 2012 Murder Rate Tied to Drugs, Gangs and Personal Conflict

Chicago’s 2012 murder rate has been a constant fixture in the media this year, with reports of deadly shootings occurring nearly every day. Most of the shootings are related to interpersonal conflicts between rival gang members, and drugs often play a central role in these altercations. But despite strict gun control policies in the Windy City, it seems that drugs and gang-related conflict will continue to fuel Chicago’s murder rate, begging the idea that it’s not gun control Chicago needs: it’s drug control.

Chicago: A US Hometown War Zone

As of June, 2012, the number of homicides in Chicago since 2001 numbered more than 5,000. 2001 was the first year that American troops entered Afghanistan, and since the inception of operations there approximately 2,000 US troops have been killed. These numbers indicate that Chicago’s homicide rates are more than double the rates of troops killed in an established Middle-Eastern war zone. (1)

How could this be happening in a city with more than 12,000 police officers? The answer lies in Chicago’s long history of gang wars, going all the way back to the Prohibition and mobsters like Al Capone, Bugs Moran and Dion O’Banion.

Over the last 70 years gangs have remained a part of Chicago, and although gang members and styles have changed, primary sources of income have not, with drugs being the most important source of gang revenue. In the 80’s and 90’s Chicago’s gangs were mostly young black men ruling over a vast and well-connected empire buoyed largely on sales of crack-cocaine.

Fortunately, Chicago police were successful in cracking down on gang leaders and fracturing gangs into less powerful and seemingly disorganized groups. However, this strategy seems to be at least partly responsible for the current high rate of gang-related homicides considering that there are now more gang factions in the city than ever before. And because the manufacture and sale of illicit drugs is still the primary source of gang income, violence is often not far away. (2)

However, many people believe that it’s not gang wars specifically that are directly causing the high rate of murders. Although the deaths often involve gang members, the shootings are generally not about “gang business” – at least not initially. In a story for Chicago Tonight titled: Are Chicago Murders all Gang Related? Natalie Moore uncovers a concept of gang-associated homicide that goes something like this:

*Gang member #1 feels slighted by rival gang member X over an interpersonal conflict
*Gang member #1 makes derogatory remarks about rival gang member X
*Gang member X retaliates by shooting rival gang member #1 and anyone standing nearby
*Soon after, gang members supporting gang member #1 make a retaliatory attack on the rival gang
*Retaliations alternate back and forth, sometimes culminating in multiple, separate but connected shootings throughout the course of a day

In the process, innocent bystanders are sometimes shot and killed, and police often erroneously cite their deaths as gang-related. (3)

What law enforcement efforts have made clear is that the binding glue of Chicago’s splintered gangs isn’t fraternity or respect, and it definitely isn’t a sense of security. It’s all about drugs. Using drugs together, selling drugs, manufacturing drugs, engaging in crimes to procure more drugs; this is the moral fabric that many gang members are cut from.

The reality is that most gang related killings aren’t worth the offense supposedly committed, indicating a populace that is hasty and paranoid. Add drugs to this picture and it’s easy to see how things get blown out of proportion in the Windy City.

(1) Chicago Homicides Outnumber U.S. Troop Killings in Afghanistan Huffington Post 06/16/2012

(2) Belkin, Douglas Chicago Hunts for Answers to Gang Killings The Wall Street Journal 07/12/2012

(3) Moore, Natalie Are Chicago Murders all Gang Related? Chicago Tonight 09/25/2012