The Tragic, Violent History of the Brooklyn Waterfront

Sep 09, 2019 179

In the few existing pictures of Pietro ‘Pete’ Panto he wears a dark fedora, black mustache, and an easy smile that sometimes showed a gap in his teeth. His face suggests a more lighthearted person than the battling saint remembered after he had led a revolt of Brooklyn dock workers. “Pete became a saint like they carry on St. Anthony’s Day,” a veteran of many waterfront battles, Vincent ‘Jim’ Longhi, declared decades later. “Everybody knew who did the job on Pete.”

Panto had arrived on the waterfront some time in the middle thirties, then underwent a period of breaking in as a longshoreman. By 1937 the 26-year-old Panto had secured his union card and a regular job at the Moore McCormack line’s Brooklyn pier 15. At the foot of Brooklyn Heights, the Moore-Mack pier jutted into the East River just upstream from the cabled span of the Roeblings’ Brooklyn Bridge and looked across to the bottom of Manhattan and the Staten Island ferry sheds.

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