Secrecy Around Unsolved Murder Forces NYCLU to Sue City of Yonkers

Share This:
Issues and Regions:

October 6, 2008 —  Related

  • The Petition (PDF)
  • The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Yonkers’ refusal to disclose public records of its investigation into the unsolved murder of John Acropolis, a union reformer who was shot dead in 1952 after battling the mob’s influence in the local trash hauling industry.

    The NYCLU and cooperating attorney Joann Prinzivalli filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court on behalf of John Bly, whose sister was engaged to Acropolis at the time of the murder. Bly is working on a book about Acropolis’ life and murder. In May, he submitted a formal request under the state Freedom of Information Law to the City of Yonkers for records concerning the murder investigation. The city denied the request. Bly submitted an administrative appeal of the denial in June, which the city ignored entirely.

    “I believe that state laws say these records should be available to the public,” said Bly, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Dallas, Texas. “I’ve been stonewalled by the Yonkers Police Department. It is very frustrating. People have a right to know what their government has done.”

    “This type of secrecy is unacceptable and incompatible with open government,” said Linda Berns, director of the NYCLU’s Lower Hudson Valley Chapter. “The unsolved murder of John Acropolis is among the most sensational crimes in Yonkers history. It is a subject ripe for public scrutiny.”

    Acropolis, the president of Teamsters Local 456, was shot twice in the back of the head in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 1952. He was found facedown in a pool of blood just inside the entrance of his apartment on Warburton Avenue. He was 43 years old.

    A powerful union official, Acropolis had made dangerous enemies through his effort to block mob-connected private carting companies from collecting garbage in Yonkers. Following a 1949 garbage strike, Acropolis persuaded the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce to establish a private carting company that would only hire Local 456 members. The move triggered a turf war between Local 456 and Local 27 of the Bronx, a union connected to a private carting company controlled by the Genovese crime family.

    Detectives from Yonkers, New York City and Westchester County interviewed hundreds of witnesses following the Acropolis murder, but the crime was never solved. It is possible that mob corruption may have interfered with the murder investigation. A 50-year retrospective of the murder published in the Journal News in 2002 indicated that “questions remain about just how vigorously Yonkers police investigated the case.”

    “The police department cannot withhold records simply to save itself from possible embarrassment,” Prinzivalli said. “If the city will not release this information, we are confident the courts will require it to do so.”

    The records Bly requested include copies of the official death inquest of John Acropolis, the official ballistics report submitted by the NYPD, and the results of tests the NYPD’s ballistic experts performed on a .38 caliber revolver found on the grounds of Acropolis’ apartment building six years after the murder.