Louis Gigante, a South Bronx power broker with Genovese family ties, dies at 90

Rev. Louis Gigante, a former NYC councilmember and major player in the development of the South Bronx, passed away at the age of 90 on Wednesday.
Photo courtesy SEBCO

Rev. Louis Gigante, a former NYC councilmember and major power broker in the South Bronx — with brothers who were key mobsters in the infamous Genovese crime family — passed away on Wednesday at the age of 90. A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York confirmed Gigante’s passing but did not specify a cause of death.

Born in Manhattan in 1932 to Italian immigrants, Gigante was an accomplished high school basketball player at Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx en route to a scholarship to Georgetown University. Thereafter, he attended seminary at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1959.

Gigante was the parish priest of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was a teenager, which is documented in her memoir “My Beloved World.”

But he is more widely known for his work in economic and community development in the South Bronx as well as his involvement in NYC politics.

Gigante founded the Southeast Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO) and Simpson Street Development Association in 1968 and 1969, respectively. In 1971, Gigante, while still a priest, founded the Bruckner Democratic Club and went on to serve two terms on the New York City Council after being elected in 1973.

Despite an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1970, Gigante’s fingerprints are all over the Hunts Points section of the Bronx.

In the ’80s, the non-profit housing group SEBCO developed al­most 2,000 new or renovated housing units for low-income families in the Hunts Point area, which was considered downtrodden by national pundits and media.

But Gigante also had ties to one of New York City’s most infamous organized crime families, the Genovese family where his brother Vincent “Chin” Gigante — who died in 2005 — became boss. Louis Gigante himself, spent 10 days in jail for for refusing to answer grand jury questions about organized crime.

However, a four-month investigation by The Village Voice in 2007 revealed that Gigante and his publicly financed South Bronx developments were $50 million investments that benefitted companies owned by or affiliated with top-ranking members of the Genovese family.

Between 1978 and 2004, SEBCO registered 18 businesses, including six nonprofit organizations and 12 for-profit companies. Gigante was listed as CEO of five of the corporations and a chairperson of the majority of the nonprofit organizations.

In July 2017, Gigante was honored for “rebuilding major stretches of the South Bronx” by elected officials at a Family Day celebration in front of his former church at St. Athanasius.

Last year, Gigante was one of 177 names recently unveiled in a wave of lawsuits against parishioners and officials connected to the Archdiocese of New York via the state’s 2019 Child Victims Act, which granted a one-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to file court cases that had already been time-barred or expired.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes

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