QueensLine: Cops seize 3K whiskey cases during Prohibition in 1925

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

On June 24, 1925, when the first surveys were wrapped up on Harlem’s 125th Street for the new bridge crossing the East River, the occasion was hailed as “Tri-borough Bridge Day.” A luncheon at the Hotel Theresa was followed by a parade to a speakers’ platform at First Avenue and 125th Street.

Among the speakers was Mayor John Hylan, who promised to find a way to finance the estimated $30 million project and have the project complete within a few years.

The mayor, of course, had no way of knowing at the time that the Triborough Bridge would fall victim to the Great Depression, as it took Robert Moses and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Commission 11 years to complete and open the bridge.


Federal agents and policemen from the Hunters Point precinct who searched the waterfront from Newtown Creek to Ravenswood on rumors of a major moonshine delivery finally hit the jackpot June 29 when, after boarding the three-masted schooner Natisco and crawling through small spaces, breaking down a bulkhead and moving a wall of coal bags, they entered a cargo hold loaded with lumber where customs agents found 3,000 cases of whiskey.

The cargo, valued at about $200,000, was concealed in more than 2 million feet of lumber. The “liquor was stacked ten feet high and solidly encased in lumber” the police reported. It was thought that the liquor might have been loaded in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The ship, which had been docked at the foot of Washington Avenue (36th Avenue) in Ravenswood, was towed to the Barge Office at the Battery, where officials said they would not only condemn the schooner, worth about $50,000, but also confiscate the load of lumber, worth about $900,000, as well as the liquor. Papers on board showed that crew of the Natisco had not been paid. Her captain disappeared, but it was thought he might surface for a customs hearing.


At Celtic Park in Laurel Hill, Gen. Elan O’Duffy, chief of police of the Irish Free State, who was in New York for an international police conference, witnessed a near riot. He had come to Celtic Park to watch sporting events.

At a hurling — Gaelic football — game, two spectators got into a fight when two men were cheering opposite teams when one of them called a player a “tramp.” The other spectator took exception to this. Heated words led to blows and others soon joined in the melee. The free-for-all ended only when police were called in from Hunters Point and Astoria.

The two who started the brawl got the worst of it: One was arrested and the other was transported to the emergency room at St. John’s Hospital. O’Duffy escaped in an automobile.


“Here I have lived, and here I will die,” fiercely muttered the veteran Queen of the Gypsies.

Stretched upon a pallet, Sara Stevens lay near death. Recently, the city Health Department had decided to close the large gypsy encampment at Maspeth. Although many had moved on, a few were allowed to remain until the end of the summer to complete summer jobs.

Some moved to Philadelphia and others to woodland 4 miles beyond Jamaica.


The city was putting the finishing touches on the “Corona El” — today the No. 7 line — extension over Flushing Creek to Main Street. Work was also wrapping up on the Tiemann Avenue (111th Street), Willets Point Boulevard and Main Street stations that spanned the route.

Beneath the elevated line, work was also underway on the bridge that crossed Roosevelt Avenue. Opening day was expected early the following year.

For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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