Before you get to the article…
On February 23, 2018, my book on the Mau Maus and Sand Street Angels, who were two Brooklyn youth gangs from the 1950s, has been completed. It took 15 years of research and writing to complete Brooklyn Rumble: Mau Maus, Sand Street Angels, and the End of an Era. This book is roughly 6″x9″ and has 370 pages and includes a look at the characters in the Mau Maus and the details of a gang killing that happened in February 1959 in front of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater (now Long Island University). If you want to buy a copy, click here and this link will take you to an online ordering page.
Hector was a member of the Forsythe Boys, a Lower East Side gang with an established territory/turf in the area of Rivington, Stanton and Forsythe Streets as well as the Sara D Roosevelt Park that intersects with those streets. On July 15, 1959, Hector was visiting a girl friend in the area of Mott and Delancey Streets when he was run out of the neighborhood by an Italian gang. I’m not sure what Italian gang this could have been as the only Italian gang that I am aware of from the Lower East Side was the Mayrose, and they had their turf closer to the waterfront. The Mayrose had pretty much disappeared by 1959, their last vestigates of survival ending around 1956. This is not to say that there were no Italian gangs, as often there were small gangs that only had turfs of a block or two. It’s too bad the Italian gang was nameless.
Running from the Italians, Hector ran for more familiar territory. However, the same day, he saw a boy named Patrick walking on Forsythe and Stanton Street; he came from the direction of the neighborhood he had just been run out of. Angry, Hector approached his prey with two companions. They questioned Patrick, asking him where he lived. It turned out Patrick lived in New Jersey, far from the Lower East Side, at least in terms of gang turf. However, this didn’t matter to Hector and his friends. When Patrick tried to leave the hostile boys, they blocked his way. Without warning one of Hector’s buddies hit Patrick with a stick-ball bat and another struck him with a piece of metal pipe, knocking him to the sidewalk. Hector, not wanting to be outdone by his friends, fell upon him with his fists and stomped Patrick as he lay helpless on the ground.
Somehow Patrick managed to scramble away to safety, and told his Dad about what happened. He managed to give enough information for the police to arrest Hector (the other assailants were not apprehended). Patrick sustained bruises and contusions on his back, leg and eye and was treated by the doctor at a cost of $7. Patrick healed up, but was afraid to go back to his father’s place of business which was in an adjoining neighborhoood.
This wasn’t Hector’s first brush with the law. He had already been arrested for raping a girl on a rooftop, breaking the windows of a gym and for carrying a zip gun. The Forsythe Boys were an active and notorious fighting street gang, and it would haven’t been much of a surprise for Hector to be carrying a weapon.
Hector came from a very deprived family; his father was a heavy drinker and was cruel to his wife, beating her, but didn’t appear to have anything to do with Hector. His mother had mental issues and needed psychiatric help which she refused. His brother also needed psychiatric assistance. His baby sister had a serious illness that took the lion’s share of the mother’s time and attention, leaving the boys to their own vices. The home he lived in was at 181 Norfolk Street, which was a 2.5 room apartment that was inadequate and overcrowded. The building itself was dilapidated and in an area of high juvenile delinquency. In short, Hector had a background similar to many who boys who were involved in gangs and juvenile delinquency.
But what made Hector different from most gang boys, and what caught my attention is that he was an excellent student. Many gang boys were chronic truants and/or suffered from learning disabilities. Many got their working papers by 16 years of age to get out of school. But not Hector of the Forsythe Boys. He was an outstanding student and one of the schools he attended – Bronx Vocational High School – gave a letter of glowing recommendation for Hector’s academic prowess. In fact, they were very surprised to hear about his arrested, stating:
Hector, a student at this school, has maintained a superior record of scholarship, character, and citizenship in this school. Therefore, we were quite shocked to learn from his parents that he had violated the law and was awaiting sentence.
The Principal went on to outline Hector’s accomplishments and the hope that one of his star students would get a chance to redeem himself and get his diploma. In his words:
A month and a week after this incident, the Forsythe Boys and their enemies the Sportsmen lit the city on fire with two gang killings in one day (in addition to some shootings that resulted in injury). Each gang killed someone, the Forsythe Boys shooting and killing an innocent girl who happened to be sitting on a bench in the projects on Avenue D and the Forsythe Boys losing one of their own members to a stabbing. Hector wouldn’t have been involved in the killings as by then he was incarcerated: it didn’t appear the letter from the Principal swayed the Judge. By October 1 of that year Hector was admitted into Elmira, and then from there who knows which one of the prisons in New York State.