Through official corruption and bribery, New Kensington would operate as a wide-open area for the underworld, and eventually garnered the nickname “Little Las Vegas” because of it. And the Mannarinos oversaw it all.
The city of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, in Westmoreland County, was a relatively small town that today has a current population of approximately 12,500. But in its 1950s heyday, New Kensington boasted a populous of over 25,000, literally double the number of people it has now.
Known locally as New Ken, the town sat along the Allegheny River just 18 miles northeast of the City of Pittsburgh.
Early on as the area developed, the first large company to make its headquarters there was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which later changed its name becoming the giant known as Alcoa. They would remain as one of the largest employers in the area for decades to come.
Other smaller but key corporations such as Adams Drilling, Goldsmith and Lowerburg, New Kensington Brewing Co., Keystone Dairy, and many other firms soon adopted the area as their own as well. It buoyed up employment and revenue for New Kensington’s natives greatly helping to stabilize the area.
But with Alcoa’s departure in 1971, and the major recession that hit the entire country in 1972-73 adversely affecting other employers there, the overall economy would plummet and never make a solid return. It led to a steady decline in the area’s population.
Today, there is a poverty rate of almost 1 in 4 Kensentonians, with much unemployment. But harkening back to those heady days of the 1930s, up through all of the 1960s and beyond, arguably there was no greater employer than the mob!
And although New Kensington always had a plethora of independent racketeers and hustlers of every size, shape, and ethnicity operating there, Italian racketeers and more specifically the Mafia became the dominant force in the town’s underworld and the main employer for many for decades to come.
And of all those Italian racketeers and the mafiosi active there, no one became more well-known and dominant to the area than the Mannarino brothers. Once they got their start and firmly planted their flag, Sam and his kid brother Gabriel, who everyone knew as “Kelly”, would eventually edge out all other comers until they alone ruled New Kensington, all of Westmoreland County and its outer environs with an iron fist.
Through official corruption and bribery, New Kensington would operate as a wide open area for the underworld, and eventually garnered the nickname “Little Las Vegas” because of it. And the Mannarino’s oversaw it all.
With the advent of the massive nationwide crackdown on all the mafia by the federal government starting in the wake of the infamous Apalachin Mob Meeting in 1957, the Mannarino brothers and their associates, as well as all of the townspeople of New Kensington would suffer.
Many of the gambling operations and related rackets that employed hundreds across the city were disrupted by repeated raids, arrests and a massive loss of income over a number of years. Inadvertently and unwittingly, the government singlehandedly did as much to knock New Kensington and it’s townspeople on its ass as any recession could ever do…it never came back.
THIS IS THEIR STORY!