History of mob influence in River Quay detailed in speech

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

How warring factions of Kansas City mob families destroyed a popular venue with the hip crowd was the subject that a former Kansas City, Missouri, police officer told at a meeting Sept. 10 of the Fairfax Industrial Association.

Gary Jenkins, the policeman, spent 13 years as an undercover officer gathering information about the Mafia. He told the history of the River Quay (pronounced key). Marion Trozzolo, a former college instructor from Chicago who owned a plastics company, developed the River Quay in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a great place to bring the family. There were various artisan and boutique shops. Trozzolo patterned the area after the Old Town area of Chicago.

Jenkins said the mob operated bars on Twelfth Street, but were being pushed out to make way for a hotel which is now the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. The mob wanted to move into River Quay.

Trozzolo had difficulty in obtaining capital and sold his interest of some 20 parcels of real estate to a New Orleans developer, Joseph Canizaro. An article in The New York Times referred Trozzolo‘s dream as Canizaro’s nightmare. Jenkins said what happened in the next few years was a violent gangland war.

Jenkins said one faction of the mob wanted strip joints and prostitution in River Quay. However, another faction, led by Fred Bonadonna, owner of Poor Freddie’s restaurant, opposed that type of business. Bonadonna’s father was murdered in gangland style. Jenkins said there were several other criminal incidents including execution-style homicides and bombings.

Today River Quay is now known as River Market. It is a mix of offices, restaurants and apartments and shops. The strip joints are gone. It is perceived as a place that is safe for families.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Chamber members prepare for 2021 legislative session

Opinion column

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by Murrel Bland

The Legislative Committee of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce is looking ahead to January 2021 when the Kansas Legislature will be back in session. Committee members, who met Friday, Sept. 11, via Zoom, expressed their views on various issues that the Legislature will face.

Mike Smallwood, the Legislative Committee chairman, said he is concerned about the restrictions business owners face because of the coronavirus pandemic. He told of a bowling alley in Lawrence that is struggling to stay open.

Cathy Harding, a member of the Legislative Committee, said it is important that restrictions are followed so the country can get past this pandemic. She is the president of the Wyandotte Health Foundation.

Greg Kindle, the president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said the Legislature needs to look at early childhood education. He said affordable child care is a serious issue facing employees in many Wyandotte County businesses.

Smallwood said that a couple of issues he expects legislators to face are the online sales tax and encouraging state and local government to buy from local suppliers. He said he was surprised that state revenues for August were unexpectedly high.

Committee members were briefed on various federal stimulus proposals that would be contingent on the State Finance Council approving a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. The council did approve the state of emergency. However, a provision of the approval was that Gov. Laura Kelly would not close any business because of the pandemic.

Gov. Kelly recently announced that four Kansas cities, including Kansas City, Kansas, have submitted proposals vying for the U.S. Space Command; the other Kansas cities are Wichita, Derby and Leavenworth.

Daniel Silva, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is hoping to sponsor debates for candidates running for the Third District, U.S. Representative and U.S. Senate. Business West will sponsor candidates’ forums for those running for the Kansas House and Kansas Senate.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.