The Gemini Lounge In Brooklyn, 9 New York Mafia Social Clubs: Then & Now

Gemini Lounge

Maybe no building in America has more demons than 4021 Flatlands Avenue in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, New York. The things that went on there in the 1970s and early 1980s was like a never ending horror film. This bar was the headquarters of mafia hitman Roy DeMeo and his team of killers. They hung out in the bar but the real business went on in the apartment right behind the Gemini. 

(Building pictured above)

The crew were contract killers and the apartment was where they chose to kill and dispose of their targets. They did this for years and developed a frightening system known as the Gemini Method. The intended victim was lured to the apartment usually under the pretense of a business deal. They would be immediately shot, DeMeo’s crew often used a silencer because often there were people in the bar.

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Then things got even worse. The victim was stabbed in the heart so the blood would quit pumping. Then they were dragged into the bathtub and hung upside down to let the blood drain for an hour. Roy and his team then methodically chopped up the body and put the parts in trash bags. After dropping the remains at the Fountain Avenue Dump, the DeMeo Crew simply went on to the next piece of business.

Most experts including NYC detectives estimate that more than 100 people met this exact fate in the apartment. It all ended in 1983 when Roy himself was murdered and the rest of the crew went to prison, were killed themselves, or disappeared. After the Gemini Lounge closed, it later became a church. For a long time, it was the Flatlands Church of God, it’s now the Purpose Life Church.

The church has been a neighborhood gathering place for some time. It’s bizarre and amazing that in a building where so many horrors once took place, people are now praying, loving and celebrating. The majority of the church members are not fully aware of the history of the building, particularly the Gemini Lounge and the apartment.

Multiple persons have rented the apartment behind the Gemini. One woman who was interviewed about it recalled hearing about some mob activity at the old bar when it was around. She wasn’t aware of the blood that had been spilled in the apartment where she was staying. The building looks near exactly the same as it did back in the days of the DeMeo Crew. 

The neighborhood of Canarsie has changed significantly since the Gemini Lounge was operating. It used to be majority Italian and now it’s over 80% black residents. The aging two story white and brick building on Flatlands Avenue rarely gets noticed by most, but it does hold the secrets of of one of the most deadly crews in the history of the mafia.

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Midnight Rose Candy Store

The old brick building on the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn currently houses a Ftawa Mini Market. Very few people who live in the neighborhood currently are aware of the history of the building. It once housed a business named Midnight Rose’s Candy Store, open 24 hours with payphones in the back. It was Rose’s clientele who made the place a historic footnote.

A group of roughly a dozen young men liked to hang out there around the clock, always keeping Ms. Rose busy. There was Abe Reles, Mendy Weiss, Pittsurgh Phil Strauss, Harry Maione and Buggsy Goldstein who were the constants for years. Rose enjoyed the company of the young men and stayed out of the private conversations that they would often have in the back by the phones. 

Turns out these young guys were the most violent mafia killing squad in history of the mafia. They were waiting by the phones out back to get the call about going out on another “contract”. They never used the word kill, but the word contract was used daily around the store. The group was known as Murder Inc. and they took orders from Albert Anastasia and Lepke Buchalter, two Lucky Luciano allies. 

All this was going on in the 1930s when Brownsville was mainly a mix of Jewish and Italian gangsters. Most mafia historians believe that the group was responsible for up to 1,000 murders in their decade of existence. The mafia used them to dispose of any potential enemies or turncoats. And the whole operation was run out of that little candy store in Brownsville. 

After Abe Reles rolled in 1940, it caused the downfall of the entire group. Seven Murder Inc. members were convicted and sent to the electric chair. Abe Reles would end up mysteriously going out a 6th story window in 1941 right before he was to testify against the big boss, Albert Anastasia. With Reles under 24/7 police protection, the incident looked to be a massive display of power by the mafia.

Midnight Rose would soon grow old and close her store. The location has seen a number of different owners and businesses over the decades since. Somehow the history was lost as most people had no idea that the building they now occupied was once a place where hudndreds of murder contracts were delivered. The neighborhood has moved on but the frightening legacy of Murder Inc. remains.

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Midnight Rose Candy Store Today

Joe & Mary’s Italian Restaurant

One of the most notorious murder scenes in American mafia history was that of Carmine “The Cigar” Galante. The infamous Bonanno boss was chomping on his cigar after a delicious lunch at Joe & Mary’s Italian Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The restaurant had a patio out back where Galante held court with four other men.

Carmine was a major heroin trafficker who took over the Bonanno Family by force after Rusty Rastelli went to prison. He was one of the most feared and hated bosses ever and Galante was moving in on the position of boss of bosses. He made that intention clear to everyone. There was no regard for territory or respect for the other bosses. 

He would often go to his favorite restaurant and hold court for hours. Two of the men with him on June 12, 1979 at Joe and Marys were his armed Sicilian bodyguards Cesar Bonventre and Baldo Amato. When three ski mask wearing shooters burst in and killed Galante and the two other men, the bodyguards calmly got up and walked out.


The former site of Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant where Carmine Galante was murdered

The scene afterwards was among the most infamous murder scenes ever. Several reporters were able to snap pictures of the taped off scene from rooftops. Galante was thrown straight backwards off his chair and there was a thick stream of blood leading to a drain several feet away. His customary cigar firmly clinched in his mouth. 

The horrific incident was too much for the owners who soon sold the building. A series of different owners have opened various operations, including another Italian restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. Currently, the building is abandoned. Neighborhood graffiti artists have done several murals on the closed overhead door that covers the opening. 

The Ravenite Social Club

John Gotti was not a man who hid from publicity, instead he relished it. Unlike most mafia bosses who completely shunned the media, John Gotti gave them sly grins and witty quotes. Because of this and his murderous rise to the top of the mafia, he became an instant media sensation even appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

One thing that always bothered his underboss Sammy Gravano was Gotti’s insistence on meeting up weekly at the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street. This was a notorious mafia hotspot that Sammy knew the feds had been watching for years. Gotti made all the captains come to him every week with an envelope full of thousands each.

Gotti would hear none of Gravano’s concerns about using the Ravenite. The Teflon Don considered it as a defiant badge of honor because it was the headquarters of his longtime mentor Neil Dellacroce. Every time Gotti beat court cases, a massive celebration with fireworks would take place on Mulberry Street. 

The FBI had gone after Gotti unsuccessfully in the past. They went ahead and bugged the Ravenite and came up with minimal significant conversation. After realizing that Gotti was going to an upstairs apartment for long periods of time, they bugged it as well. This would be where Gotti was exposed discussing murder and racketeering, leading to his demise. 


This upscale shoe store once housed the Ravenite Social Club

The Gambino Family still controlled the building for a time after Gotti went to prison. With Gotti Sr. gone, it was now Peter Gotti and John Gotti Jr. running the show and still frequenting the Ravenite. Eventually they both went to prison as the Gotti legacy began to slowly fold. Eventually the crime family let go of their stakes in the building 

Today, the building at 247 Mulberry Street in Little Italy now houses a fancy shoe store. Instead of the bunker like all brick front, there is now a fancy glass storefront with elegant displays. The neighborhood is much the same in many ways but there is very little remnants of the powerful mafia that once dominated in the area. 

Like most places in bigger cities, it’s been gentrified to fit an upscale younger population. Little Italy and New York City are nowhere near mafia free and there are still mafiosi integrated in the neighborhoods. It’s nothing even close to the days when Gotti and Gravano were running the New York mafia from inside the Ravenite.

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The 596 Club

They were known as the Westside Irish mob which would later become known as the Westies. The Westies consisted of roughly 15 – 20 Irish gangsters who came from the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. During their glory days in the 1970-80s they were led by two very feared killers, Jimmy Coonan and Francis “Mickey” Featherstone.

Coonan invested in a bar located on the corner of 43rd Street and 10th Avenue. The address was 596 10th Ave so it was simply named the 596 Club. It became the hangout for Coonan’s crew and plenty of business was conducted there over the years. There were also some high level mobsters who made appearances there, like noted loanshark Charles “Ruby” Stein. 

The former site of Jimmy Coonan’s 596 Club

Jimmy got his loans from Ruby and by the late 1970s was deeply in debt to him. Instead of paying up, he got the idea that he would not only kill Stein but also grab his little black book. This was a bold plan considering Stein’s connection to the five families who would kill the Westies in return. Jimmy hatched a plan that included a meeting with Ruby in 1977 at the 596 Club. 

Thinking that he was there to conduct business, Stein showed up to the club one afternoon. Ruby didn’t notice that the front door was quietly locked behind him. He was then shot to death by a man that came running in from the kitchen area in the back. Coonan and crew then dragged the body into the bathroom where they systematically chopped it to pieces. 

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At the same time, Coonan had been making inroads with the Gambino Family through Roy DeMeo. After Stein’s torso was discovered, the Italians suspected Coonan. It was DeMeo who pulled some strings and was able to save Coonan’s life and create a Gambino/Westies affiliation. 

Coonan’s gang including Mickey were never happy the Italian connection. After Featherstone cooperated with the FBI in the mid 1980s, Coonan and the Westies disappeared. The gruesome site is now a bar and grill called Mr. Biggs. The neighborhood has moved on but many old timers are brought back to another time in their mind when they enter Mr. Biggs. 

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