Where is Pete Panto? – The New York Times
In the fall of 1930, two dockworkers were shot in a turf battle on the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel in Red Hook. Every now and then a worker would go missing or a heavy load would fall on a stevedore working in the hold of the ship – sometimes accidentally, but who could tell?
These were the conditions Mr. Panto found when he returned to Brooklyn at the age of 24 in 1934. He soon found work on the docks, where he blended in with the crowds of other Italian immigrants, a medium-sized man with dark hair. , a thin mustache and a gap between his front teeth. “But he had incredible charisma,” said Nathan Ward, the author of “Dark Harbor: War for the Brooklyn Waterfront,” one of the few books that tells Mr. Panto’s story.
At that time, Ward said, the West Coast base had successfully organized against waterfront corruption in San Francisco, but the East Coast was far behind. After a few years working on the docks, Mr. Panto landed a job as a hiring foreman in 1939. Seeing firsthand how twisted the system was, he rallied Brooklyn’s 2,000 workers that spring, delivering moving speeches in his accented English. After a meeting of more than 1,200 stevedores, Emil Camarda, vice-president of the dockers’ union, privately told Mr Panto that Mr Anastasia, the union boss, was unhappy with the trouble he was causing. Mr. Panto was offered $10,000 to cool off. But the 28-year-old provocateur did not back down, refusing the bribe.
Some stevedores, then and now, considered Mr. Panto a hero. Others thought he was crazy or just plain stupid for risking his life. But most agree that changes were needed on the waterfront.
On Friday afternoon, July 14, 1939, Mr. Panto left his job at the docks and went to see his fiancée of 20 years, Alice Maffia. He and Alice, who worked in a mothbag factory, had a date that night and planned to go to the beach the next day.
But a dark sedan pulled up next to Mr. Panto, and he got in. Witnesses said that Mr. Camarda was in the car with union agents.